I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to contact Bishop Hilary Garang Deng of Malakal, South Sudan but the BBC succeeded yesterday. (Must be the modest difference in the resources available to us.) The NewHour program on the World Service interviewed Bishop Hilary in Malakal with the sounds of gunfire and explosions in the background. You can listen to the five-minute interview at this link. It begins around 4:30. A little background. Malakal is a major settlement in South Sudan. It occupies a critical place on the road and river network in the region, connecting north, east, south, and west. It is also—and always has been—a multi-ethnic city. Shilluk, Nuer, Dinka, Bari, and many others live there. Because of this, the church has a particularly important role to play as a site of reconciliation. When I was there in September, I attended a church service at the cathedral in which people from all those ethnic groups were worshipping together in a variety of languages.
Bishop Hilary is originally from farther south in Jonglei state and has been bishop of Malakal for about ten years. He was educated at Bishop Gwynne College in the early 1980s, a critical period in the church’s life when several people who are now senior bishops were in school together and the quality of instruction under principal Benaiah Poggo was superb. (That era came to end in 1987 when the civil war reached the college, an event BGC is still trying to recover from. Another bishop who was at BGC in that era was Ruben Akurdit Ngong of Bor, whom I spoke to yesterday.) Bishop Hilary is also a talented artist and musician. I hope some day you’ll have the opportunity to see his artwork or hear him play the guitar. No transcript of the NewsHour interview appears to exist, so I have transcribed a few of Bishop Hilary’s comments. I make no promises for its accuracy.
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. Today, there is heavy shelling. About five shells have come into the middle of the town and also some houses near my residence where I am near the church…. The SPLA has taken us this far. They are almost going to let us down. It is a pity. I appeal to the friends of IGAD and all who have brought us peace in South Sudan that they should really help us to resolve the issues. Because at the end if they don’t help them, they are going to wreck the ship…. We the citizens are being frustrated. We need maturity. People who can be nationalists, who can stand for the sake of South Sudan and the people of South Sudan. We cannot have South Sudan without Dinka. We cannot have South Sudan without anybody. All of us, we are children of this land. And we have to care for one other.
Amen to all that.