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“Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

—Matthew 5:16

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses two images to describe the life of discipleship: salt and light. Jesus calls his disciples to be salt of the earth and light of the world. In this way, he powerfully stated our mission as Christians—to continue Jesus’ work of salvation here on earth. Many of us are already doing our part. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console those who mourn, we show ourselves to be the light of the world; we become like “a city set on a mountain [that] cannot be hidden.”

For people in conflict zones, every day is filled with uncertainty and fear. Not knowing what might happen next stops people from truly living. Children growing up in war-torn countries like South Sudan are particularly affected. They live each day hoping for a light that will brighten the dark places in their hearts.

“When you move around in the communities, you see so many children, beautiful children, and you know these children are not able to do anything. You see ruined childhoods, ruined futures. So many young people here have no path forward.”

–Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala

CMMB has partnered with other organizations to provide Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) that helps support and protect children in the context of war. CFS activities restore a sense of normalcy and continuity to children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict or disaster. These spaces allow children a place to be kids again, playing, singing, dancing, and drawing. For these children, the program is a light that brightens their world.

Angela is a child friendly space animator and now comms specialist in South Sudan

Angela Namaku, a member of our child protection team, leads children in an activity in a child friendly space.

Placing children in a safe environment where they can regain their innocence and feel free to be themselves is only the beginning. Ongoing activities help them with life and conflict management skills so that they can continue to progress as they grow. CMMB staff members have a chance to listen to the stories of community children. Angela, a CFS team member, shares one of those stories with us.

Her name is Tame Maniza. She is eight years old and has never really known peace. She has grown up in a place where blood runs like water. A place where there is deep pain and sorrow. Gunshots pierce the dark night. She’s heard from her pastor that peace and freedom are real, but she has no feeling of this.

Tame’s father is a soldier. He never smiles when he comes home. Her mother works in the fields and often comes home late. Her brothers like to play war games and pretend to be soldiers, just like their father. She’d rather be with her mom, but she’s always off somewhere, struggling to find food to feed her family.

Tame likes going to church every Sunday to listen to the pastor, who preaches against doing bad things and asks for peace. He likes the village children and is very kind to Tame. One day, she decided to go speak to him while he was praying under a mango tree with his children and his wife. She prayed with them and listened as he spoke of the freedom that peace will bring for families and children.

The following Sunday, Tame asked her brothers and sisters to go to church with her. They refused. They look up to their father and he never attends church. Tame went to church anyway, on her own. Towards the end of mass, the pastor announced that CMMB volunteers would be arriving over the next few days to come and play with the children. When Tame heard this, she felt happy and grateful, but she was also nervous about what her dad would think of her participating. She decided to ask for her mother’s permission, knowing her father would never understand.

Tame had a wonderful time taking part in the activities and playing with the other children. When she returned home, she encouraged her brothers and sisters to join her the next day. She wanted them to know what peace felt like, even if it was just for an afternoon.

Child friendly space activities in action in South Sudan

“One of the best things about these activities is the way you see kids being carefree.” —Fred CFS animator

The CMMB volunteers and the programs they ran on good parenting and protecting children stayed in Tame’s mind. She said it was nice to see people in the community talking about how to raise children and how important children are for the future. Tame was grateful for the friends she made. She told me with a smile, “I loved learning new things from them!”

—Angela, CFS team member

In 2019, 1160 children and adolescents received support services through the Child Friendly Spaces program in South Sudan.

Beautiful faces of children in child friendly spaces

Child friendly space activities aim to bring children together and to help build trust.

Through Angela, Tame shared her wish for peace, despite never having experienced it. Coming from a place of darkness, Tame has been given hope—a light that shines for the future. CMMB has faith that one day peace will be restored for all. Until then we continue to dedicate much of our work in South Sudan to supporting and protecting children, and helping the community heal.

In grace and peace,

CMMB/Healthier Lives Worldwide

*Parts of this article were inspired by Loyola Press Sunday Connection.


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