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South Sudan Update, March 2024

It was great to see so many friends and supporters in the UK over December and January . We had many really significant times while on “Sending Country Assignment”. This newsletter is written by Tim and shares experiences from his recent visit to South Sudan, but we also aim to send an update on how things in Brazil are going, before long.

Abyei
 
In January I marked with Fr Biong to travel to Abyei together in early February. A few days before I arrived in Juba, 55 people were massacred in Abyei by Twic and Nuer forces. While in Juba, several villages in southern Abyei were attacked; people were shot and burned in their homes. Kidnappings were also frequent in this period. I told Fr Biong that I wanted to go, but that if he said that I shouldn’t, I would understand.
 
God’s timing is perfect, and it was certainly the right time to go. Fr Biong and I both received an incredible welcome; people would be happy to see us at any time, but especially at this time. As Fr Biong rightly told people, the main reason we were there, and the most important thing we could do, was to pray with people, show solidarity, and strengthen their hope. We prayed with the wounded in hospital, visited those grieving, and gave messages of encouragement at several masses and funerals. I also preached at the Evangelical Presbyterian church and led a bible study at the ECSS church in Abyei town.
 
One woman in the hospital was keen to share her experience. She was woken in the middle of the night when she heard voices, which she identified from the language they used as Twic and Nuer. Her infant son was shot in the arm through the walls of their tukul. Their tukul roof was set on fire, but they managed to escape and hide in long grass a couple of hundred metres away. Her neighbour was killed. She worked to try and stop her son bleeding while the Twic and Nuer forces first looted then burned the market near their home. She says they were heavily armed and had “machine guns that stand on the ground.” She managed to get her son to the hospital the next morning. Thankfully, he survived, but her experience is all too common.
 
As well as visiting some of the villages that had been attacked, I also interviewed people from a broad cross-section of the community, feeling that this would be a helpful time to write a detailed report. You can download the report here; I find that crimes against humanity, and arguably acts of genocide are occurring in Abyei, that UNISFA is unable to protect civilians without increasing troop levels and changing the Force Commander, and that a humanitarian emergency – caused by people from the whole area being squeezed into Abyei town – can be averted by increased donor support and the voluntary repopulation of villages in central and northern Abyei.
 
There is a model letter here if you wish to write to your MP about this. (Better to use it than not at all; even better to use your own words.)

Photos: meeting with chiefs representing the 9 Ngok Dinka chiefdoms; Abathok market burned; worship at Abyei Evangelical Presbyterian church; meeting with Bp Michael Bol of ECSS; listening to women’s groups

Teachers for Abyei
 
One encouragement in the midst of a very difficult situation has been the continued success of the Teachers for Abyei programme. Both schools we support, Majak and Rumamer Primary Schools, managed to stay open last year, despite insecurity, with a full complement of teachers. Both managed to hold primary leaving exams. In Majak, 100% of students passed.  Teachers are poorly and irregularly paid, which means they often quit part way through the year, or miss school days in order to take on other casual work. Our teacher sponsorship programme makes teaching a viable profession for teachers, and ensures that students have a teacher every school day for the whole school year.
 
It turned out to be the perfect time to visit from the point of view of continuing this work, since the project lead had just finished working at BGRRF, and it was necessary to discuss the programme with other members of the BGRRF team who will take it on.
 
We will certainly continue to support Majak school; we will support Rumamer school if it opens, but it may not open due to insecurity, in which case we’ll move the support to another local school. If you are interested in sponsoring a teacher, now is an ideal time to let me know, because if we get enough support, we will be able to support additional schools. It costs about £10 per teacher per month (or £45 for the two head teachers who BGRRF contract directly). We’ll be finalising the budget within the next two or three weeks.
 
Teacher Kuol Deng Kuol speaks about the impact of the Teachers for Abyei programme (click to view video)
God at work amongst Darfuris
 
While in Juba, I visited Light of Christ Bible Church, a mainly Darfuri congregation who I’ve connected with previously, and spend time with their pastor. I also met up with another Darfuri pastor. It is so encouraging to see how God is at move amongst Darfuris, who have come to faith in Christ in droves both in Darfur and in refugee camps, in the last 10 years. One pastor told me how he had baptised 202 people in the camps in Chad; another church leaders how they had used the resource we facilitated training in back in 2018, amongst three tribes in different locations in Darfur, with many coming to faith.
 
These pastors are both making trips to different refugee camps on Darfur’s borders in March, to spend time discipling the hundreds who gave their lives to Christ on previous trips. One of the pastors who is appropriately trained will also be offering trauma healing sessions. If you’re interested in supporting either of them, do let me know. One needs help with transport costs; the other would like to take gifts of clothes and reusable sanitary pads to encourage the believers there: most have only one set of clothes, and no access to sanitary products of any kind. Perhaps you would like to offer a woman in a refugee camp the freedom that comes with access to sanitary hygiene, this International Women’s Day!
 
It was also wonderful to meet up with old friends Tim Fwans, and Ellie Sworo, both of whom I’ve known since 2010, and be invited by them to give teaching at the MEJET discipleship course, and at preach at Glory Baptist Church. 

Prayer points:

  • Pray for peace in Abyei, for civilian protection and support for those who have lost family members, homes and livelihoods, or who are internally displaced within Abyei. Pray that God would keep strengthening the hope of the Ngok Dinka through the local church and its partners. Pray that Tim’s report would be used by God to help change the situation.
  • Thank God for the success of the Teachers for Abyei programme, and pray for a wider support base so we can support teachers in more schools.
  • Praise God for all He is doing amongst Darfuri peoples and pray for the pastors who are travelling to refugee camps this month, that God might use them to strengthen and deepen the faith and knowledge of believers there

For Tim & Hannah’s contact details, please contact the CBC office.

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