By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (February 3, 2014) — Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan (ECCSS) and their families have arrived in safe locations as fighting continues in their native country despite what is supposed to be an ongoing ceasefire, Mathew, a member of the church’s leadership team wrote in an email on Sunday.
Some have sought refuge in areas such Akobo East, near the Ethiopian border; others are residing in Malakal at the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNIMISS) compound at the Presbyterian church, he reported.
Another congregation in Bentiu took refuge in the UNIMISS compound there. The government has shut down the communication system so the fate of the school is unknown, Matthew said.
He shared that, “I and my family arrived safely in Pugnido Refugee Camp in Ethiopia and we got a ration card. I have also had a chance to go to Gambella and meet with ECCSS congregation members and those kids supported by VOC–Phase IV Project.”
He continued, “The journey has been long because I and my family traveled across four countries that included Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan…. Though it has been a difficult journey with a lot of challenges on the way, we were able to conquer through your support and your strong prayers to our almighty God,” directing his comments to Covenanters in the West.
“I thank Covenant World Mission and Covenant World Relief for their tireless support to the ECCSS members and leaders and to me in particular,” Mathew said. “Hence, my happiness to you remain relentless, and I believe the living God whom we serve. His purpose will reward you plenty of blessings and strengths that will make you continue serving his flocks and the needy communities all over the world.”
Although the violence has calmed significantly since rebels and the government signed a truce on January 23, outbreaks of violence have continued.
“Nevertheless, the humanitarian situation of the internally displaced people (IDPs) into the UN compounds all over the country remain horrible and dire,” Mathew says. “The people are severely lacking their basic needs which include food, water, shelter, clothes, and many others.”
The most vulnerable people such as the elderly, sick, mothers of newborns, and the wounded suffer the most, Mathew says. “They need a quick intervention of the humanitarian organizations.”
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is overwhelmed by the huge number of IDPs that has risen to more than 700,000 persons all over the country. “The mission is mainly focusing on the security of IDPs and UN personnel in the country,” Mathew said. “Hence, the government of South Sudan is also exhausted by the six-week rebellion and pays less attention to the IDPs.”
“We are asking you to continue your compassionate and powerful prayers that will help to bring permanent peace and tranquility in South Sudan,” Mathew says. “Pray for peace and stability, pray for forgiveness and reconciliation, pray for unity and love for the people of South Sudan.
The United Nations has said more than 860,000 people have been displaced through the fighting that broke out December 15, which began as a conflict between elements of the armed forces. The UN added that as many as 3.7 million people are in desperate need of food.
Covenant World Relief has set up a special fund to provide assistance through partners already working in refugee camps. To donate, click here.
To read previous Covenant News Service stories on the conflict and its impact on Sudanese Covenanters click on the links below: