I was born in Canada in the early ’90s, three years after my parents, two older brothers and sister came to the country as refugees. They’d just fled the second civil war being waged between Sudan and what is now known as South Sudan. They had been given a rare chance to start a new life.
Even though I was born and raised in Canada, war was closer for me than it should’ve been. Seeking physical safety is a priority for refugees, but the unfortunate truth is that once that is secured peace of mind doesn’t always follow.
Growing up, I remember endless phone calls to family overseas and constant prayers for their safety. I was raised knowing two vastly different worlds, largely isolated from each other. The first, a relatively safe country where freedom is a given and opportunity feels within reach; and the second, a country where violence and insecurity are common and opportunities are few and far between.
Not many people are aware of what’s happening in South Sudan. To know more is to do more, so I want you to know about my country.
South Sudan is the newest country in the world. It pursued autonomy following the second civil war and gained independence in 2011 in a referendum. That was a flame of hope for people who fought for it at great cost. After years of war and poverty, it was time for renewal and growth. Sadly, civil war broke out in 2013.
It’s been four years since the fighting began again, and it’s only gotten worse. Civilians are being targeted based on ethnicity, and are bearing the brunt of armed conflict. According to many sources, the country is on the verge of genocide.
More than one million people have fled and millions more are displaced. Famine, disease and unspeakable violence are affecting huge swaths of the population. South Sudan has become the epicentre of one of the worst humanitarian disasters.
Two-thirds of the population of South Sudan is under the age of 30, so this is a youth crisis. A threat to the youth of a nation endangers the future of its society. The effects of war don’t end at loss of life; war destroys possibility and potential. With half the country’s children out of school and social structures torn apart by conflict, youth are especially vulnerable to violence, trafficking and exploitation.
I trust Canadian people and their instincts. I know that when we know, we act. The first step toward making a difference is being aware. In my life, standing up for the underprivileged, vulnerable, and oppressed makes sense because I know that my life of relative privilege is born out of
Standing up for the underprivileged, vulnerable and oppressed makes sense to me because I know my privilege is born out of circumstance. What separates me from someone my age in South Sudan is merely chance. No one’s suffering is as far from us as we think, and neither is our capacity to help.
Today marks International Youth Day and it’s imperative that we recognize the collective strength of compassion and community, and work toward a more peaceful, equitable future for all.
Nyagua Chiek is a Plan International Canada youth advocate.
Newer news items:
- South Sudan refugees face long exile: UN's Grandi - 15/08/2017
- South Sudan rebels recapture Pagak, their headquarters - 15/08/2017
- South Sudan govt deny rebel recapture of key Ethiopia border town - 14/08/2017
- South Sudan lauds Kenyan poll outcome as strategic for its survival - 14/08/2017
- South Sudan Rebels Fight Back After Losing Headquarters - 12/08/2017
Older news items:
- South Sudan rebels say have retaken Pagak town near border with Ethiopia - 11/08/2017
- Heavy fighting erupts in South Sudan near border with Ethiopia - 11/08/2017
- People With Disabilities Struggle To Escape Carnage In South Sudan - 11/08/2017
- South Sudan's Mothers Are Making A Desperate Journey To Safety - 10/08/2017
- German foreign minister visits South Sudan refugees in Uganda - 10/08/2017
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