An Irish priest is not letting violence detract from his mission to bring literacy to war-torn South Sudan.
Fr. Tony O’Riordan has never been one to step away from a fight — not when it comes to drug dealers and thugs on the streets of Limerick, Ireland, nor mobs of attackers at a refugee camp in South Sudan, Africa.
It was July 23. O’Riordan and others working for the Jesuit Refugee Service, in Maban County, home to one of the world’s most isolated refugee camps, heard a mob attacking another compound not 1,000 feet away from their own, and knew they would be next.
Violence is not unheard of in the region. Hundreds of humanitarian aid workers, including O’Riordan, project director of the JRS in Maban, and his team, are among those living and working in the “tent city” for about 150,000 refugees trying to flee the civil war in their country, but who also battle hunger and disease on a daily basis.
The compound includes a learning center, including computers and English language books — and it’s here that Fr. O’Riordan believes the war of political power and poverty can be won — through education. Less than a third of the population is literate; 85 percent of the population cannot read. The reason for this is the lack of resources, as well as the problem of displacement because of the conflict.