Since the main opposition leader was driven from Juba last July with his small army, there is greater stability in Juba, but less elsewhere. Seven opposition groups announced on May 13 that they united to overthrow President Salva Kiir.2 Daily emailed security briefings get longer. Overall, clashes between government and opposition forces increase in frequency and severity, particularly near the cities of Yei and Bor, and in the far north. The customary see-saw rustling of cattle and abduction of women and children between Dinka and Murle, and between other tribes, continues. Tribal fighting erupts inside UN camps. I cannot conceive of a more aggressively sub-divided nation of its size. In addition, last February the UN declared a famine in two locations in northern S. Sudan.3
Since January Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church (LMPC) began outreach into UN Camp 3 in Juba, hiring 5 (of 8) chaplains to help reach the 50,000 refugees there. A basic prayer and study building is planned.
At Malakal4, (pictured above) near the Sudan border, the UN camp situation is worse than in Juba. In Juba, it’s possible to leave camp and merge into the city of perhaps a half-million, although it’s uncertain how risky that is. At Malakal, once the second or third largest city in the country, the Nuer in the camp fear going into the almost deserted city of Malakal, from which they fled in 2013. It’s now controlled by Dinka government soldiers. Nuer cannot easily blend into their city, due to tribal facial markings. Most men haven’t left camp since 2013. To counteract vitamin deficiency, women may venture into the small market in Malakal a few kilometers from camp, to buy vegetables, but at peril.
Getting up at 6 AM, April 23rd, trying to shake off fatigue and a bad cold, I dipped into the Psalms before reviewing my sermon at the Malakal, S. Sudan UN camp. “He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. 9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. 10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. 11 He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.’” (Psa 10:8-11 NIV)
God describes events throughout this nation. Armed men taking over cities and villages--taking whatever they want, including lives and livelihoods. Yei is an example. In October 2016, government and rebel forces in and around Yei abused the civilian population by killing, raping, and abducting.5 Warfare between these forces continues at Yei through June, 2017. It’s a large town, but rebels advised the population to flee from possible government retaliation for recent rebel attacks that recently killed four government soldiers.6 God describes in detail what the perpetrators assert He didn’t see. So I was compelled to change my text. This is the same God who now sees all the unrighteousness.
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa 11:3). They do what is in their hands to do. A school at the Juba camp 1 was devastated by government attacks around July 8, 2016. School stopped, some teachers and students didn’t come back, but those remaining carried on.
At Malakal UN Camp, with a population of 30,0007, 18 churches of various denominations have united. Through a gift from a foundation, encouraging literature was distributed through these churches. They advocate for the refugees, and have shared a desperate need for an eye doctor to help those with the trachoma eye disease. This spreads in part by flies, which abound. Doctors Without Borders has a clinic inside the camp, but no eye doctor. Another request is for workshops. I taught a lengthy one on forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. We’re also arranging rapid discipleship training among them.
Three chaplains have recently been hired to help reach camp residents. They encourage hope in the Lord, who sees clearer than any agency, watchdog group, or international court. “You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” (Psa 10:17-18).
If you would like to be a means of God’s encouragement to South Sudanese, RMNI, through partnership with Agape Mission in Juba, can deliver assistance inside and outside UN camps in Juba and Malakal. You can also provide food for needy pastors and widows and orphans in the Juba area. You may now donate through our website: www.RMNI.org Other special projects include expanding the prayer/study center at the Juba UN camp 1. Feel free to write Jim@RMNI.org about a need mentioned, for details. Finally, we can pray for peace and godly leadership in South Sudan. Pray that God’s word will swiftly penetrate and transform lives and cultures, toward accountability for crimes, forgiveness and reconciliation. You may wish to contact us about a trip to Juba and Malakal, tentatively planned for April, 2018.
- An 80-minute flight from Juba via World Food Program costs $900 roundtrip.
- This is down from 40,000 in February, 2016, when 30 people were killed inside the camp due to internal fighting among tribes and from government soldiers entering the camp. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/jun/22/8 malakal-camp-south-sudan-un-united-nations-says-response-violence-marred-by-confusion