Here’s a picture I took a year ago:
That’s Bishop Abraham Yel Nhial, bishop of the Diocese of Aweil in Sudan. I took the picture when Abraham and I were in Abyei, the contested border region between north and south, which is part of his diocese. The bridge behind him was destroyed in attacks in May 2011 by a northern-allied militia. Its destruction meant, at the time of our visit, that Abraham was unable to visit all parts of his diocese, including the town of Abyei, the centre of the region. Instead, we went to Agok, a town in the southern part of the region where a huge number of people displaced from Abyei had sought refuge, many in a church school.
I just heard from Abraham that he made it to Abyei, this time with the Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul. They have only just returned and have—to date—a very short report to share. Nonetheless, it is devastating to read:
An Episcopal Church of Sudan delegation led by Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul has just returned from a visit to Abyei. They were shocked at what they saw. The town is deserted apart from “a few stragglers”, and has been completely destroyed. One eye-witness from the delegation described it as reminiscent of World War II photos of the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities. Only the mosque was untouched. The Catholic church, Catholic and ECS schools, boreholes, administrative offices, government houses, power station, shops, even the latrines, have all been destroyed. The UN forces are perceived as being biased against the Dinka. There appear to be no humanitarian agencies working there, as apparently it is consider part of Sudan and they do not work cross-border. A huge number of refugees from Abyei, perhaps as many as 100 thousand, are in Agok with very few basic services. The people simply ask for what is their right under the Abyei Protocol of the CPA, agreed by both parties: a referendum in which they can choose their destiny.
The Church will be releasing a full report, with pictures and video, in the near future.
Details to follow. In the meantime, an item for your prayers.