News from Rumbek
Pilgrimage of Peace
A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place where saints have walked and God has met and blessed people. A good example of pilgrimage is Jesus who often prayed with his feet. It’s a journey through which we seek forgiveness and healing, and pray for other people and places affected by conflict / war, as we reflect on our own journey with God.
We get a chance to walk free from daily routine as we talk openly about the steps to a peaceful society, make new friends, and celebrate the diversity of God’s creation. Through the interaction, we appreciate other people as we learn some life aspects and lifestyles from them.
On July 6th, 2018, at the start of our midterm break, our Senior 4 class made a peace pilgrimage to Wulu, accompanied by some of our graduates and staff. The focus of the pilgrimage was a reflection on the peace prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The pilgrimage was a significant physical undertaking as Wulu is located about 40km south from the Loreto compound in a hilly region of Western Lakes State.
Our pilgrims started the walk at 7:00 am, walking in three groups with 3 shifts of a 5 km walk followed by a 5 km car ride. The fields beside the road were filled with beautiful green grass and bamboo trees. At one point, the pilgrims hiked over a hilly area, which was the first time that some of our students had climbed a slope, and it reinforced the learning of our geography students.
According to Martha, one of our graduates,
“People fear to walk to far places because of insecurity. Bandits can hide in the forest and rob and harm innocent people. The walk helps enhance peace because it helps remove the fear instilled in our people, thus encouraging them that they can still walk safely to other places. The people who were walking free and grazing on the road is an indication that there is some state of peace and we still hope for more.”
After a morning of walking, the group was warmly welcomed with a song by young children in Wulu; their dulcet tones reminiscent of the sweetness of the Wulu’s famous honey.
As the pilgrims gathered in the St Paul and Peter Diocese cathedral, they sang songs of peace and the Wulu County Education Director, William Koji Kiirjok encouraged our girls to continue shining through hard work as role models in the society.
The Wulu County Commissioner, Abednego Degroh, was also present and registered his gratitude for Loreto’s choice of Wulu for the pilgrimage. He explained that it was the first peace walk to Wulu. The guest of the event was the Deputy Governor, Her Excellency Agum Reuben, who encouraged the girls to be determined in their education just as they were in their journey to Wulu.
She noted that they had adopted the culture of practical involvement in peace walks from Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gebrselassie. “As the government, we will adopt the practice of peace pilgrimage and will be joining you in the subsequent walks. Thanks Sister Orla for coming up with the idea of peace walk,” the Deputy Governor added.
The state of peace in South Sudan is still uncertain, even as we mark seven years of independence, and in spite of the ceasefire agreement signed on June 27th, 2018. But there is hope for our young people as Jukudu, a Senior 4 student explains, “We were able to talk about peace among ourselves and sing peace songs to show the community that we need peace. It is also a way of promoting girl child educations because the young girls could see us and wish to emulate us. We also learnt about landscape and saw types of trees and grass. I also learnt and appreciate other cultures for instance, to marry a girl from Wulu, honey is one of the requirements.”
During the pilgrimage, the group learned that the people of Wulu had embarked upon bee keeping, honey harvesting, processing, and packaging as an economic activity and that they were getting good returns. Each pilgrim received 500 grams of honey for the return journey, as they collected some pebbles for use in simple Mathematics games for younger students.
For Mr. Yuga, the Headteacher of Loreto Girls Secondary School, the pilgrimage was a success, “We enjoyed the journey to Wulu and it was a good opportunity to spread the peace we want. We also appreciate the Senior 4 candidates for journeying safely through the system.”