Why is South Sudan Still Suffering?

I feel this morning that the Lord has revealed the answer to my haunting question. Why LWCT did not make more progress in transforming the communities we served in Lakes State? We diligently labored to teach and equip them in areas of church planting, pastor training, discipleship, leadership, primary education, vocational skills, and agriculture. Why did it not make a larger impact? South Sudan as a nation seems to never move forward, despite all the help they receive. “Why, Lord?” I ask so often.

There was a video that accompanied this photo. It was narrated by Kuot Aguto, former farm director for Living Water Community Transformation in South Sudan. Kuot explained in his video that the women have taken responsibility for Bread of Life farm. It is thriving now because of their very hard cooperative efforts. The Lord has blessed their efforts with much food at a time when South Sudan is possibly the worse off they have ever been, in terms of food insecurity. The fact that the women there are always willing to work hard to help their families and the other families in their community has always been obvious to us. That has not been true of the men in the community. One might assume that the men of this area are lazy, in comparison to the women. I am convinced that this is not an accurate assessment.

The Dinka culture is fascinating and beautiful in many ways. However, there are a few aspects that are counterculture to Christianity. These are aspects that we have been totally aware of the entire time of working there. However, I must admit that we did not understand the magnitude of their influence over every issue facing the Nation of South Sudan at large.
Dinka boys are taught from a very young age that men are to be respected and feared. They are not to do any manual labor around the home. Conversely, the girls are taught from a very young age that their role is to serve the family by doing all the household chores. This includes caring for infant siblings, carrying water, cooking, gardening and collecting firewood.
At puberty, the male child takes the “mark” of his clan upon his forehead. The mark is made with a spear by the community traditional spiritualist and is a design that scars permanently. This mark identifies this young man as a warrior from his clan, who is to be feared by enemy clans. This event is a solemn ceremony in which the boy proves his manhood by not showing any fear or emotions. From this point on the boy is considered a man and is not under the authority of any woman, including his mother. He is not to perform any manual labor, which is considered women’s work. This work brings shame on him and his family.

This practice leads to the need for men to continuously take younger wives. A wealthy man is one who has many children, wives and cows. Puberty age daughters typically are given as wives to the man who offers the most cows. The older men generally have the most cows as they have “sold” their own daughters for many cows. The men continually take younger wives to produce more children and to ensure that they will have someone to manage their homes and provide food for them in their old age.

The Dinka tribe is by far the largest tribe in South Sudan. They represent 48% of the population, while the second largest is Nuer at 16%. The Nuer have a very similar culture as it pertains to role of women. Is it any wonder that the men in political power are from these two tribes? And is there any wonder why the government of South Sudan is not able to lead the nation to better economic Stability?

Now that I have some experience working with South Sudanese people from other tribes, I am keenly aware that this aversion to physical labor for men is not true of all South Sudanese men. However, because of the minority status of these smaller tribes they have little representation or influence over governing affairs.

The Bible states, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10. I am convinced that the only way these practices will change is through teaching by the churches. Before that can happen, the pastors and priests must believe, teach and follow these principles themselves. That will require great sacrifice and courage on their part. Let us pray for the South Sudanese men of God to take responsibility for the future of their nation.

If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season and the ground will yield it crops and trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. Leviticus 26:3-5.

Tinake Parik, (Thank you in Bari),
Sagule (Means a cow that brings blessings)