Sudan: Peacebuilding is a Well, a Soccer Field, a Church

Water sharing

Students at Olikwi Primary School share water from a well CRS built. By removing anxiety over access to water, wells become important peacebuilding tools. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

by John Lindner

Peacebuilding is a well. It’s a school. It’s a farm, a clinic, a nurse, a community center, a soccer field, a church and a traffic light. And wherever people are living together in peace, that peace has been built.

In the U.S., we don’t think about peacebuilding because most of the heavy lifting has been done for us. Most of the maintenance structures are in place. For instance: At our intersections, we have traffic lights.

Sudan soccer

In any place or culture, sports build and maintain peace as they balance rivalry with concepts like fairness. In southern Sudan, when kids from different tribes may play on the same team, the peacebuilding benefits are far more obvious. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

Traffic lights keep us (most of the time) from crashing into each other. When we do crash, we have police and courts and hospitals and insurance companies and all manner of institutions to sort out and mediate our crashes, accidental or otherwise.

When you do not have those things, peace is far harder to attain and maintain. It must be built.

In southern Sudan, traffic lights are pretty far down the priority list. Decades of war, both across and within borders, have obliterated opportunities to build institutions that are the stuff of civilization.

So, when CRS looks at wells and schools and farms and traffic lights as the building blocks of peace, it helps us enlarge our goals for well drilling and education and traffic control. We drill wells with an eye to accommodating the most people in the most effective way. Schools provide arenas of common cause—education—for children and adults of different backgrounds. Traffic lights give us structure we can all live with. OK, maybe we don’t do traffic lights. But if you think our emergency workers don’t know traffic control, you’ve never seen a CRS food distribution.

Peacebuilding is the deliberate seeking out and removing of causes of fear and anxiety. When your well or school or clinic removes one of those causes, you’re building peace.

Peacebuilding also provides ways to live in peace and ways to deal peacefully with our differences as they arise.

When CRS talks about peacebuilding, we’re talking about laying the foundations that allow people to live together in peace. Sometimes that’s a well. Sometimes it’s a school. Sometimes it’s a traffic light.

Learn more about CRS’ work to achieve peace in Sudan.

CRS web managing editor John Lindner traveled to southern Sudan to report on peacebuilding. This is the first of a set of posts on the work the Church and CRS are doing in southern Sudan.

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