Today, South Sudan is celebrating its fourth Independence Day, but almost no one there is celebrating. Instead they are trying to avert a famine.
Last month I was at a nutrition center in the city of Kuajok in South Sudan where I measured the circumference of the upper arm of Riing Ayii, a 15-month-old boy, in order to determine his level of malnutrition.
With skin hanging off his bones the little boy easily fit the U.N. definition of severely malnourished. Riing’s upper arm measured no more than the circle you could make with your thumb and index finger. I couldn’t help but think of my own healthy 15-month-old grandson toddling around the backyard at twice Riing’s size.
We shouldn’t need a fast and easy way to determine degrees of starvation, but in South Sudan — a country struggling with what the United Nations calls acute hunger — there are so many children in desperate need.
Right now 3.5 million people in the country are in need of emergency food assistance. The only redeeming aspect of wrapping the measuring tape around a starving child is knowing that here in this camp, where the measurement takes place, he will finally receive some food.
American Christians are in part responsible for the creation of South Sudan. During the ’90s, advocacy on behalf of southern Sudan resulted in the 1998 passage of the International Religious Freedom Act and ultimately pushed the George W. Bush’s administration to take an active role in the Sudan conflict. A peace deal was reached, and in 2011, a new country was born.
Yet today, we are failing our moral responsibility to sustain this infant country as it struggles to walk on its own. We have moved on to other concerns before the job was done here in South Sudan. Christians need to stay the course on this issue that once galvanized churches, because lives are at stake as South Sudan struggles toward real independence. Eighteen months ago, conflict broke out in the capital, and it hasn’t stopped. Nearly a fifth of the population, 2 million people, have been displaced, roughly 13,000 children have been recruited into armed groups — a 40 percent increase since last year.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S. and author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished.