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BISHOP MAZZOLARI / “A Minister of God in Sudan: a gigantic experience”

Monsignor Cesere Mazzolari celebrating mass Monsignor Cesere Mazzolari celebrating mass

In a country whose population is 85% illiterate, the first challenge is definitely education. Not merely teaching people reading, writing, and arithmetic, but building a personal identity, the shape of a people, a nation looking to the future. Mazzolari explains it clearly in the course of a journey by jeep: he is at the wheel despite his 74 years and the roads of South Sudan – little more than tracks in the savannah. One of the problems that the missionaries have to confront every day is the subjection of women in a culture of polygamy. “One of the things that will put an end to polygamy is the education and emancipation of women, so that they will understand that they are destined for something better than to be the 20th or 30th wife of the rich old man of the village", argues Mazzolari with conviction. Even though modernity is making its timid inroads into an impenetrable society like that of South Sudan, the young, confused by social customs, “are completely chained to their culture by a sort of system. Polygamy, the obligation of vendetta, and other negative situations: people are victims of this vicious circle. They will need tremendously strong Christian convictions to escape from all that,” explains the prelate from Brescia.

In addition to the critique of polygamy – a practice that represents a defeat for the dignity of woman and for the value of love itself – education, understood in a Christian sense, is bringing into the ancient Nigritia another very important human and social value: forgiveness. “As a Church we have reconciled the Nuer and the Dinka through our diocesan association dedicated to Saint Monica: we have brought about meetings between tribes at one time in conflict with one another, Dinka families have gone to find the Nuer and the Nuer have visited the homes of the Dinka. This has been happening over the last 7-8 years, while the war was still raging.

When individuals forget about vendetta, peace comes. Many women have forgiven the wicked deeds that the North committed against the South: in Khartoum they were tired of fighting, we in the South were prostrate with exhaustion. Basically, the peace agreement was an act of reconciliation, even if the North regards it simply as a truce.”