One of the great joys of traveling as I have in recent years is the way it has brought to life the reality of a worldwide body of Christ. I have been fortunate to come to know our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world in a real and meaningful way. With e-mail, I’ve even been able to stay in touch with them from time to time.
But relationships that bring joy can also bring pain, especially when these people begin to suffer. Such is the case in Sudan at the moment.
Perhaps you’ve seen the news that the northern army last weekend occupied a contested border town, Abyei, and is now making noises about doing the same to two other contested border regions. Last September, I studied at Bishop Gwynne College, a seminary in Juba, Sudan. One of the students I studied with, Zechariah, learned recently that his family has been displaced into multiple directions at once and he doesn’t know where they all are or if they are still alive.
Zechariah and I (not, admittedly, the world’s greatest photo of either of us)
Another student, Cimbir, is from the Kadugli Mountains, one of the contested areas on the brink. He is hoping to return home to his wife and two small children next week after he graduates. He hasn’t been home since last August. But he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to go home now or if his family will be there when he returns.
Cimbir and I
I’ve also recently received this e-mail from the secretary of the diocese that includes Abyei.
Sudanese forces attacked on Abyei claimed the possession of Abyei town on Saturday at round 8PM. The whole town was completely set on fire, and according to Rev. Nathaniel Maral Mayom, the current senior priest of E.C.S in Abyei, approximately 20,000 people fled Abyei to many different bushes and others ran towards South Sudan towns of Warrap State.
High population has arrived in Agok town in Twic area, and many others ran to small towns in Twic County in Warrap State. The majority of displaced persons are still in the bush including two priests of Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Rev. Santino Akec and Rev. John Manayang. It is still not known where they ran to. Rev. Santino Jok arrived in Agok last night and reported that he was forced to ran to a place called Rum-Ajang-Deng but he hasn’t heard or knows where Rev. Akec and Rev. Manyang have ran to.
The situation on the ground is worse, said Rev. Maral. All the civilians are now down on streets and in bushes, no food, no shelters, no water and no medical assistant. The situation was intensified last night by heavy rain fall in Agok area. Displaced people and children are seriously affected under trees in Agok.
Agok ECS School has accommodated 2,800 displaced people despite the fact that Agok School has very limited space to accommodate such huge number of people; there no option but such deteriorating condition forces us to accept them. Majority are still under the trees with children, sick people and elderly people. Aweil Diocese is left with no choices but raise the voice of voiceless for relief assistance.
Aweil Diocese is calling for urgent support for the civilians who are now lying on the ground without medical attention, shelters, food and water. People with communicable diseases are forced to sleep together with healthy people and this could spread the effect of disease all displaced people if no urgent humanitarian relief intervention reach them before the end of this week
Traveling is great fun and always loads of adventure and excitement. But these are real people with real concerns. The more I travel the more I learn that I need to bear their needs as best I can.