Peacemaking has a distinctly African rhythm in the camp for displaced persons in the United Nations base in Malakal, South Sudan. Inside the camp’s crowded Catholic Church, young people are dancing. In a country at war, they say they’re dancing for peace.
“I like to dance,” said Vivian James, a teenager in the sprawling camp of some 35,000 people. “It brings people together and promotes peace. Our dance is for everyone. Even though we are from different tribes, we dance together.”
James is a member of the dance choir that keeps the camp’s Catholic liturgies lively. The group’s director, David Luk, says it’s a very Catholic thing to do.
“The Bible says we are to pray to God with song and dance. We have a lot of tribes in South Sudan, and each tribe has its own dances. But the Catholic Church stands for unity around the world, so here we dance for unity. I am Nuer, but if a Shilluk sees me dancing like a Shilluk, they’ll see that there is no difference between us. So even though we are a lot of tribes, we dance together. I do a Shilluk dance, the Shilluk does a Dinka dance, and so on. That’s what peace is, because it expresses how we are one together,” Luk said.