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Partnership focused on peace links Seton Hall to South Sudanese university

Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, is partnering with the Catholic University of South Sudan (shown in the photo above) in the city of Yambia./ Courtesy of Father Ibiko Morris Masiri

Seton Hall University and the Catholic University of South Sudan have entered into a partnership aimed at fostering student and faculty exchanges, joint research efforts, and other initiatives.

The two schools announced the collaborative effort Nov. 3, bringing together one of the oldest Catholic universities in the U.S., located in South Orange, New Jersey, and a 13-year-old Catholic university located in one of the poorest and most war-torn countries in the world.

“For a university rich of tradition and records of excellence to partner with a new emerging and promising university is no doubt motivated by the genuine spirit of fraternity and solidarity of Catholic Universities of the universal Church,” Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, said in a prepared statement. 

Kussala is the patron of the Catholic University of South Sudan’s St. John’s Yambio Campus, located in the city of Yambio, which is involved in the partnership. The university also has a campus in the capital city of Juba.

A civil war that broke out in 2013 in South Sudan, located in East-Central Africa, killed nearly 400,000 people and left more than 2 million uprooted from their homes, according to the Council on Foreign Relation’s Global Conflict Tracker website.

A unity government has struggled to implement a 2018 peace accord and stem continued violence in the country. Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare of the Diocese of Rumbek is still recovering from leg wounds after being shot in April. On Aug. 16, a road ambush along a highway in South Sudan killed five people, including two Catholic nuns, Sister Mary Daniel Abud and Sister Regina Roba.

In prepared statements, leaders of the two schools stressed that a mutual desire to foster peace in South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is the overarching theme of the universities’ partnership.

Father Ibiko Morris Masiri, director of the St. John’s Yambio campus, called the partnership a “concrete expression of the privilege of our belongingness to the Catholic University family.”

“We foresee expert discussions on peace, reconciliation and sustainability; internship opportunities for students; development of new specialized courses, conferences, publications that will help build a culture of dialogue, peace; and reconciliation in South Sudan,” said Katia Passerini, provost and executive vice president of Seton Hall. 

Father Colin Kay, Seton Hall’s vice president of mission and ministry, commented on the “great synergy” between the two universities. 

“The exchange of faculty, students and staff between Seton Hall University and the University of South Sudan might provide fresh answers to peaceful and sustainable solutions for the people of South Sudan,” Kay said.

The Catholic University of South Sudan's St. John's Yambio Campus, in Yambio, South Sudan. Courtesy of Father Ibiko Morris Masiri

In an interview with CNA, Ines Murzaku, director of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall, recalled Pope Francis’ gesture of kissing the feet of the leaders of South Sudan in 2019 in a dramatic plea for peace.

“It is a Christ-like and brotherly gesture. Probably the best lesson in forgiveness and humility a pontiff could have ever given,” Murzaku told CNA. “If politics fails, brotherhood and the peace of hearts will win, which reminds of Colossians 3:15 ‘let the peace of Christ control your hearts.’”

 The partnership is an outgrowth of Seton Hall’s recent membership in the International Federation of Catholic Universities, an organization of more than 200 Catholic universities worldwide.

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