South Sudanese, Natives with Strange Freedom

By ooyetyet Oyet Alfonse

What can we understand about freedom?

In South Sudan, I don’t know how people define freedom because many people do take law into their hands to intimidate others or those with no voice, you know what I mean here.

Some dictionary defined freedom as, the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints; immunity from an obligation or duty.  

Our South Sudan laws says, “every person shall have the right to acquire or own property as regulated by law”.

And, the privacy of all persons shall be inviolable; no person shall be subjected to interference with his or her private life, family, home or belonging in accordance with our law.

Besides, the Bill of Rights says a covenant among the people of South Sudan and between them and their government at every level, and a commitment to respect and

promote human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution is the cornerstone of social justice, equality and democracy.

It sounds very funny when certain policeman furiously threatened to deal with a colleague on the use of his own electricity.

It has clearly shown that organized forces continue to deprive poor locals of their property.

What is it that South Sudanese are celebrating on the 9th of July? And what is the relationship between freedom and self-instinct?

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins chapter five with this declarative sentence: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery”.

Despite the fact that we aspire to freedom in our personal lives, though denies freedom among citizens of this nation, still there is something about freedom that makes us uncomfortable. It’s not that we mind being free ourselves, it’s mainly the thought of what others would do with their freedom if they had it.

We certainly don’t want our children wandering the streets with the sense that anything goes. We don’t really believe that the teachers in our public or private schools should be free to teach anything they want to teach or promote any idea they want to promote. As well, journalist producers should not be free to broadcast or write any material they choose to, after all, there are certain limits to what can appear on newspaper pages or broadcast articles.

Though we always say, we are a freedom loving people, we are quick to say there ought to be certain limits upon our freedom.

Even Paul in his letter to the Galatians seems to backtrack from the implications of what his own words clearly attest. For though he makes the flat-out declaration in chapter five of Galatians, “for freedom alone, Christ has set us free,” just a few verses later we find him trying to qualify and circumscribe the scope of our freedom. “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh”.  While Paul insists that Christians do not live “under the law,” still he has a long list of behaviours we are to avoid: namely, “fornication, impurity, licentiousness … enmity, jealousy, anger”. Having declared that it is for freedom and freedom alone that God has set us free, the apostle Paul immediately proceeds to tell us what we may not do in the name of freedom. Sounds like the law sneaking into freedom’s house through the back door to me!

Ironically, freedom is something we are prepared to fight for and if necessary, even to die for, but once we have achieved it, we’re all too anxious about the consequences of our victory. And we quickly try to define it and confine it, to limit and control it. For the truth is, we don’t really trust either others or ourselves to appreciate or handle freedom when we’ve found it.

What is it exactly about freedom that makes us so uncomfortable in South Sudan?

To find out why it is freedom that makes us squirm, we need to look no farther than a story in which we see Jesus Christ himself acting with an extraordinary freedom.

As we enter the scene, we find Jesus on the road from Galilee toward Jerusalem and he happens to be passing through a small Samaritan village. Suddenly their little group is caught up in the heat of racial and religious warfare between Jews and Samaritans, for when the people of that village discover that these Galileans intended to continue their journey the next day to Jerusalem, hospitality is denied. For this to happen in a small village of the middle east in that day and age tells us volumes.

This story tells us that the communal conflict and conflict between cattle herders and farmers is just like a tale between the Israel and Palestine had become so serious that normal trade and commerce between these two peoples has entirely broken down.

In addition, the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans in those days was as troublesome as it is between South Sudanese communities, above and beyond understanding of freedom among citizens of this country have been infected by force ownership (land and property grabbing), the polluted ethnic politics and forceful domination toward the weak and poor communities.

For if freedom is being cut loose from whatever shackles that tie us down, freedom also means doing without those ties to community and family and friendship circles that make us feel part of something larger than ourselves.

To cut oneself loose from all the bonds and loyalties, to country and people, to family and friends, all in the name of being free, this is scary indeed.

In fact, one might easily draw back from freedom and turn again to slavery of one kind or another. One might prefer commitment to one’s family, and binding ties to one’s people, to home, to job, to career, rather than accepting this gift of freedom.

But the thing is unless we accept God’s gift of freedom, we will never become who we are meant to be.

That’s why I ask you to look around you if enjoy such freedom when your property is being grabbed and you are forced out of your home just because you don’t the power to act against.

In this world everything to which we may become attached requires that we sacrifice our freedom.

That’s certainly true of family…in fact taking on the responsibilities of a family requires perhaps a larger sacrifice of one’s freedom than almost anything I know.

Not to mention the freedoms that we sacrifice to much lesser things. Like houses and cars and furniture, and all those possessions that end up taking possession of us. In this world anything that we grow to love, eventually ends up costing us a measure of our freedom. That’s the one thing that distinguishes our relationship with God from every other relationship.

Apostle Paul understood when he said to Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” For God grants us our freedom unconditionally, without merit on our part, and without restriction as to how we may use it.

God is the great emancipator of our souls. The only one who can truly set us free.

For who but God could truly grant us the gift of our freedom — not a freedom which ties us down to endless chores and duties and responsibilities. “For freedom God has set us free.”

Scary, frightening, exhilarating and wonderful all at the same time. Like taking that leap out the open cockpit door of the airplane flying at several thousand feet above the earth… Like the little child running off to school for the very first day… Like the adolescent embarking upon that first serious romance… Like any of us charting the course of our lives without reference to any outside responsibility or obligation, which we are able to do in the final analysis, simply because, God has given us this great gift. And because no other can or shall ever be able to offer such a gift, we know, within our very heart of hearts, that if God is truly that gracious, we can only respond like the slave girl. “If you really and truly mean it when you say you’re offering me my freedom, then I can choose none other; I’ll be going with you!”.

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