The Anglican bishop in Bor, South Sudan is asking for prayers and assistance as his see city emerges from intense violence over Christmas.
I spoke on the phone this morning with the Rt. Rev. Ruben Akurdit Ngong, bishop of the Diocese of Bor in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan. (Bishop Ruben was my host in Bor for most of the month of April.) The connection was poor and we only managed to talk for about ten minutes but I managed to gather some information.
Since December 19, Bishop Ruben has been seeking shelter in the UN compound in Bor, along with a reported 17,000 others. He reported that there is sufficient water in the compound but insufficient food.
South Sudan’s violence has enveloped Bor in recent days. Reports indicate that the SPLA/government forces pushed out forces that were loyal to a commander who defected from the SPLA. The only media reports I have seen from Bor so far are this disturbing video from Al Jazeera.
Bishop Ruben indicated that people were leaving the UN compound during the day and returning to see what had survived of their homes. St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Bor is reported to be still standing with minor damage.
The bishop’s primary concern was that as people look for assistance, they will be looking to the church. He expects that as people realize what they have lost, they may begin to gather near the cathedral. He is concerned that the diocese will be unable to meet people’s needs—food, water, shelter, and especially medicine—with its current resources. In many parts of South Sudan, people look to the church with expectation and hope because they know of the church’s international links with other Christians.
The challenge of offering relief and assistance is compounded by the fact that as rebels left Bor they took with them many of the vehicles in the town belonging to government officials, international organizations, and so forth. Bishop Ruben’s car is safe in the UN compound but he foresees a serious logistical challenge in making relief aid available.
The fighting has now moved north of Bor in areas around Baidit and Jalle, several hours north of Bor.
Separate fighting is also reported in Malakal, about a day’s journey north of Bor. I have been unable to be in touch with Bishop Hilary Garang Deng, who hosted me in September.
Bishop Ruben asked me to convey the message that he is grateful for the prayers and support people have already offered. I hope that the phone connection may improve in coming days and I may actually post some of his own comments, rather than paraphrases of them.
UPDATE, Dec. 27: Bishop Hilary Garang of Malakal is briefly interviewed by the BBC: “There is no government functioning, there is no light, there is no water and people are fleeing, are going away. The town is divided in two.” More on that conversation—along with background on the significance of Malakal—is here.