News from Abyei

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.

News from Sudan

If you have been reading the news from Sudan lately, you will know that it is not good, and that the two countries are teetering close to all-out war.

Here is this, from Bishop Abraham Nhial of the Diocese of Aweil, with news from his diocese on the border between north and south. (I travelled with Abraham to one of the critical border regions last July.)

Dear all,

This letter is to update you all about the current war situation in South Sudan, as many of you have seen it in television and it read it in the newspapers, the war is back to us. As we are watching television and reading about what going on through the newspapers, we learnt that many people are killed, wounded, displaced and their properties are looted or destroyed by the soldiers from Sudan government leaving them in horrible situation.

As I write this letter many of displaced people go to bed everyday without food even one meal in a day is not there, leave alone shelters to protect them from the rains and no clothing to cover their skinny bodies. The displaced persons have experienced great trauma and great suffering now more than ever because no one was affecting war again soon. In fact, people were preparing to cultivate their farms and they were working hard to start new life the new nation.

This letter is to inform you friends of the Diocese of Aweil that two thousand eight hundred and sixty people are displaced by the recent fight in the North Barh el Ghazal State. Therefore, I am appealing to you all, individually, a church and a community to pray for us, advocate on our behalf and consider to support if you can to save the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ from dying of hunger. Please may you all show them the love of Christ the need now at this difficult time in their lives. I will becoming to USA on May 08 and I would love to visit some of you if you want me to speak in your church, business, school or community  gathering etc.

As usual, I am truly thankful for everything you do every single time. There is no bigger blessing than friends like you always stand with us in time of trouble like this; may God bless you and reward you all for your services.

With love always!

Bishop Abraham Nhial
ECS Diocese of Aweil
South Sudan

It’s worth underscoring that advocacy really does matter and that the United States can play a significant role in this situation in preventing the outbreak of what would be an incredibly disastrous war. Have you talked to your senators or representatives lately? Now’s a good time to start.