Flora Francis & Rafat Hassan
Prepared by: Rafat Hassan
In the year 2006, I was invited by SONAD, to attend School of Democracy workshop, it was my first time to attend a workshop with SONAD, although I met some SONAD members in a workshop which was conducted by another organization. I had an idea that SONAD has been initiated by a group of Southerners.
When I was at the venue of the workshop it was obvious that the majority of the participants were from southern Sudan, during the discussions in the first session, I was really shocked by the concepts and thoughts of Flora Francis, as she announced very openly that she doesn’t trust northerners and that she cannot co-exist with them, it was really a bad experience for me especially because I was recently coming back from Greece -where I have been studying for two years- with progressive thoughts and concepts regarding the identity, and ethnic issues in Sudan.
At the time for breakfast it was funny that the meal provided was meat, and I didn’t eat meat at that time, very soon I took a decision to eat the hamburger sandwich, I was compromising as I thought that southerners could look at me as an arrogant person who refuses to share their meals.
I decided not to discuss with Flora directly about her stereotypes, I just started to get close to her, by joining her during meals and sitting close to her in the workshop room, even during holidays I used to call her to ask about her and family. After few days I wrote an article on the newspaper about (Structural Violence against Christians in Sudan), as I was working as a columnist at that time, all those factors helped me to change Flora’s ideas gradually. I started to discuss with her about the negatives of generalization and stereotypes.
Flora, like many others from (north and south) was relying on stereotypes and that kind of polarization during the long war between SPLM/A and the Central governments of Sudan.
By the end of the workshop Flora had changed her stereotypes and we were close friends, instead of mistrust and hatred flora started to rely on me in sharing her issues, we still share our issues and consult each other on many things continuously. Flora said that she never knew that there are people like me in the north; I told her that there are many of them who are better than me not only like me; it is just our fault that we judge people according to the conspiracy theory.
Transforming Relations: peace building experience of SONAD in the Sudan