Sudan: What Would You Do If You Could Prevent a Disaster?

Sudan village

Southern Sudanese who returned from exile established this village in Nimule, near the Uganda border. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

by John Lindner

How’s this for a leading question: Had you and I known in advance that on January 12 an earthquake would strike Port-au-Prince, Haiti, kill 230,000 people and draw one of the largest, most costly humanitarian relief responses in history, what might we have done?

Well, we would have done something, right?

The question is tricky and a bit unfair in that it begs other important questions. When did we know? What means did we have at hand to prevent, to warn, to build? How would we have spread the word? How many would have believed us?

So let’s simplify. Let’s say it was in our power only to warn, to convince people that a very bad thing was on its way. What if the only power we were allowed was to convince people to be outdoors and away from buildings around 5 p.m. that day? How much would that have cost? How many lives preserved?

These are interesting questions for coffeehouse speculators. The fact is, we didn’t see it coming, and other than noting the geological proclivity for earthquakes in Haiti, we couldn’t see it coming. We weren’t even looking.

In Sudan, we are presented with a far less speculative position. We see the disaster coming. We know where the fault lines run. We know to the day when the critical shift will occur. And we know there will be upheaval.

Sudan may shock us. It may sadden us. But one thing Sudan cannot do is surprise us.

We can look upon Haiti with hindsight and sigh, “What would we have done?”

The question in Sudan is less comfortable. Sudan has already supplied us with decades worth of hindsight. We know.

In Sudan, the question is “What will we do?”

Beginning Monday, a discussion of CRS peacebuilding.

Because that’s what we will do.

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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