What we can do about South Sudan

where is the outrage?

Man wounded in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Photo, Camille Lepage.

Man wounded in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Photo, Camille Lepage.

I couldn't sleep last night because I was thinking about what it would be like to be a father in South Sudan. I was thinking about a father in South Sudan who watched his three young sons bleed to death when government soldiers castrated them. I thought about another father who watched soldiers tie his children together, torch them, and burn them alive in their home. If I had daughters, I would be thinking about the soldiers who gang raped girls, some as young as 8, before tying them together and burning them alive in their homes.

Some are saying South Sudan will be a failed state soon unless something changes. I think the state has already failed its people. The everyday guttural wails of grief by fathers, mothers and siblings tell the truth.

The world celebrated when South Sudan became a nation. We took joy in their new birth. Real, tangible hope was within reach for our brothers and sisters. But, now, four years later, in their hour of suffering, we are on vacation. 

I am meant to be on vacation next week but how can I stop thinking about the fathers in South Sudan? If our sons and daughters were in grave danger, our friends in South Sudan wouldn't stop thinking about us.

All this began when South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir got into a power struggle with Reik Machar, the Vice President. Their fight over power quickly turned tribal: Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer. Now the country is split along ethnic lines and somehow violence is meant to solve the problem. Diplomacy has failed, perhaps because some of the conveners from East Africa are not neutral to the conflict. I am told some are financing one side of the civil war. The UN and our State Department have decried the failed peace talks. But the international community, including the United States, must do more than advise. We need to roll up our sleeves and join the diplomatic efforts.

I have been working in humanitarian aid for more than two decades. I wish I could say that compassion is impartial. But it's usually not the case. Where we put our resources is a good indicator of our compassion. Or, to put it crassly, compassion follows money. And money, in the form of humanitarian aid, tends to follow CNN.

But we don't have to wait for CNN. If tens of thousands of churches all across our country begin praying for South Sudan each week, people will rise. If people like you and I begin writing, talking, Face-booking and tweeting the simple question, "Where's the outrage?," we will see a groundswell of interest that will influence the press and governments.  

We celebrated with the South Sudanese during their first birthday four years ago. Now its time to suffer with them in their great hour of distress.