The third Bishop of the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, Emmanuel Murye Modi, was consecrated and installed on 15 January 2017. On 20 January, the area was hit by the country’s brutal civil war. By the end of January, Kajo-Keji was all-but evacuated; with some 98 per cent of the population fleeing to Uganda.
The Diocese of Kajo-Keji has also relocated and has set up new headquarters and moved its ecumenical training programme to the Ugandan town of Moyo. “The Moyo District Authorities and the Madi and West Nile Diocese of the Church of Uganda have welcomed the people of Kajo-Keji warmly,” The Bishop sent Anglican Aid, a partner of the diocese a detailed account of his visit to the church in exile in Uganda. His report follows and has not been edited, so you the reader can understand the situation through the eyes of an African leader.
A REPORT ON RT. REV EMMANUEL MURYE’S PASTORAL VISITS TO THE REFUGEE CAMPS OF MOYO AND YUMBE DISTRICTS FROM FEBRUARY 19TH - 22ND
Owing to the most recent conflicts in Kajo-Keji County and the severe humanitarian and refugee crisis that have followed in the past two months – January and February, at least 98% of the county’s population, who include many Christians of the Anglican faith under the diocese of Kajo-Keji, have been forced to flee to and settle in refugee camps, mostly in the Moyo and Yumbe districts of Northern Uganda. There they suffer from severe lack of food, water, shelter, disease, post conflict trauma, tribal animosity, and many more.
As the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and specifically the diocese of Kajo-Keji, our biggest role and commitment is to stand with all our people and support them during such difficult times. We are tasked with the role of providing in the first place spiritual and psychosocial support, and secondly, material support where we can. In the past two months, we have as a church tried to the best of our ability to offer as much spiritual support as possible to our people in the refugee camps, and also in the Internally Displaced People within Kajo-Keji County.
According to the officials of Moyo district, over 100,000 refugees have been registered and settled under the UNHCR from the central equatorial region of South Sudan. Between January 25th and February 1st, Moyo district received an average of 4500 refugees from Kajo-Keji every day, an overwhelming number, even for the implementing humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR and Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
A recent report from Mercy Corps also states that South Sudan now has the world’s third largest refugee crisis after Syria and Afghanistan, and that while 2.1 million are displaced within the country, at least 3.6 million have fled their homes for refuge. The report also shows that 1 out of 3 South Sudanese have been displaced, and 6 out of 10 displaced South Sudanese are children. The most recent disaster now is the famine declared in the nation with 5.1 million South Sudanese in need of aid, and 4.8 million people facing severe hunger
Starting February 19th 2017, I, as newly consecrated and enthroned Bishop of Kajo-Keji, together with a team of clergy and staff from the diocese of Kajo-Keji, visited three large refugee camps in the districts of Moyo and Yumbe, where most of our people, including those from the dioceses of Morobo, Lainya and Yei are settled. Our main aim during this visit was most importantly to pray with and encourage our people in the camps, and also to do an assessment of the situation in order to effectively plan the means through which we can provide more support as a church.
I, therefore, hope that we are able to share our assessments and experiences from the refugee camps through this report, and invite you all to join us in supporting our dear people who are now settled there, going through extremely difficult situations every day.
We thank the government of Uganda for hosting this great population in northern Uganda, we also thank the UN agency for the concern they have shown to the people of South Sudan. We need peace so that the South Sudanese will go back and do work for themselves but not always being receivers of relief.
VISIT TO MOROBI REFUGEE CAMP, MOYO DISTRICT (FEBRUARY 19TH 2017)
My team visited Morobi refugee camp on Sunday February 19th to share the Sunday service with the Christians there. Morobi refugee camp is the largest refugee camp in Moyo district, hosting the largest number of refugees from Kajo-Keji County. Other South Sudanese tribes that have settled there are the Kakwa, Pojulu, Madi and Acholi. We also found out during our visit that a large number of Clergy from the diocese of Kajo-Keji have also settled at the Morobi camp.
Before we reached the designated preaching centre, we found a group of people including children who were crying. This drew our attention and we stopped and try to found out on what happed, a medical officer in the camp told us that, a mother of five children jumped to a blazing fire and when they pulled her out it and rash her to a nearby health unit but was too late so she died. She is a second wife, she had five children of her own and four dependent children .
The Children of the deceased and the fire place where the lady burned herself
The Sunday service was very colourful with at least 350 people in attendance. In my message from Exodus 19:1-10, I urged the congregation to live together in unity and harmony as refugees, creating a new congregation that is deeply rooted in Jesus Christ. I urged Christians to overcome tribal animosity in the refugee camp, especially between the Bari speaking tribes and the Dinka and Nuer tribes, because I heard of such behaviour and attitude of fellow refugees during one of my visits to the Moyo district local authorities and Lutheran World Federation (LWF). We, as a church, strongly condemn such acts among the refugees, and promote peace and unity. I also encouraged the clergy to start planting churches under the trees in the different zones of the camp and provide spiritual and psychosocial support, which the people need most, in the beginning of their new life in the refugee camps.
At the end of the service, I had a meeting with at least 25 members of clergy to plan on how they will be placed in the camps for church ministry.
We formed a committee to identify where all diocese of Kajo-Keji church leaders have settled in the refugee camp, and bring back a report through which we will effectively assign the leaders, different responsibilities for their spiritual ministry.
The leaders also cited the following challenges:
• Lack of lectionaries.
• Lack of holy communion items
• No designated church leaders for different zones
• Lack of Bibles
• Lack of prayer books and hymnals
We agreed that the diocese of Kajo-Keji clergy would use the Church of Uganda lectionaries, and adapt to their prayer days. I also pledged to look into the rest of the challenges, and give them the required feedback as soon as possible.
We visited a few sick people to pray with them, before heading back to Moyo at 7:00pm.
BIDIBIDI REFUGEE CAMP, YUMBE DISTRICT (FEBRUARY 21ST 2017)
Bidibidi refugee camp in Yumbe district is one of the biggest refugee camps in the West Nile region of northern Uganda that was opened to host refugees in mid 2016. Some kuku people fled to the camp at the onset of the conflict in Kajo-Keji in December 2016, but the largest number of South Sudanese settled there are the Kakwa, Pojulu and Nyangwara
We visited the Christians in Bidibidi on Tuesday 21st2017, and although we had given them such short notice, I was very impressed to meet the small organised gathering of Christians led by Rev. Ezra a retired 90 year old Anglican priest who in spite of his age and the many difficulties in the refugee camp, was able to plant a church there. There were other two pastors from other non-Anglican churches who have been able to plant churches there, also. Rev. Ezra had decided to take up the role of resident pastor because of the lack of Anglican priests in the camp, and is assisted by a few other lay readers and members of the Mother’s union.
We were also impressed by the level of interdenominational unity among the Christians of Bidibidi that was demonstrated by the attendance of Christians of the Baptist and Pentecostal faiths as well. Pastor Andrew Yunda of the Baptist church in fact directly coordinated our visit to the refugee camp.
After an enthusiastic welcome by kuku praise songs, we held a short prayer service during which I preached from the same book of Exodus 19:1-10, emphasizing on love, peace and unity. I also congratulated them on the establishment of the two Anglican churches, and urged them to commit themselves to work together and put up a semi permanent church structure using the available natural resources within their vicinity.
After the service, the church leaders shared with us the following challenges:
• No ordained Anglican priests except for retired Rev. Ezra.
• Lack of Bibles, hymn books and prayer books.
• Lack of clergy robes.
• Lack of lectionaries.
• Lack of educational facilities. There is only one school in their zone with over 6000 pupils.
Like we advised the Christians in Morobi refugee camp, we urged them to use the Church of Uganda lectionaries and adopt their prayer days. We also promised to look into the matter of Bibles, hymn books and prayer books, hoping to give them feedback. Regarding the schools, we encouraged them to start under tree schools with volunteer teachers. I also pledged to contact the bishops of Yei, Morobo and Lainya, who have the most Christians at the camps, and propose that they organise visits to their people in the refugee camps.
KAGURU REFUGEE CAMP, MOYO DISTRICT (FEBRUARY 22ND 2017)
Kaguru refugee camp was the last camp we visited to wrap up my pastoral visits to the refugee camps. We had the largest number of people gather for our visit to this camp, bringing together people from the neighbouring camps of Belameling, Pasu and ‘Budri. At the end of the service, the number of people who attended was over 200. We were also encouraged to meet a large number of church leaders from the diocese of Kajo-Keji at the refugee camp.
Just like in Morobi and Bidibidi, the refugees in Kaguru face the same difficulties of inadequate food, water, shelter, and medicines among others. As we approached the gathering area for our meeting, we saw an incredibly long line of refugees waiting to receive tarpaulins to construct their shelters. We were then reliably informed that many refugees had spent at least a month without tarpaulins and would seriously be affected every time it rained. We were also told that this process would probably take days, and most people had to wake up as early as 3:00am in the morning to make the line in time so as to receive their tarpaulins in one day. This depicts the immense suffering among our people in the camps. Although many were in the line trying to get tarpaulins for their families, were grateful for the few 200 that showed up to fellowship with us.
I shared with the congregation my message from Exodus 19:1-10, as I had done in the two camps we had previously visited. I urged the people to be pursuers of love, peace and unity, as they are body of Christ. We were also joined by the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church in Kajo-Keji who thereafter led us all in a powerful time of prayer. This was a very special moment as it gave everyone an opportunity to share their needs, and we were all able to commit them to the Lord in prayer. We shared in the faith and hope that God has not forsaken them and will indeed meet them at their different points of need. We also heard some powerful testimonies of spiritual victory from the congregation, and praised the Lord for his goodness and faithfulness to His people.
After a long time of praise, prayer and worship, we finally concluded up with a clergy meeting at 5:00pm to help us plan how the clergy would be placed in that area and in the neighbouring camps for church ministry. We learnt from them that at least three Anglican congregations were already planted under identified tree sheds, and open-air ministry was ongoing under the leadership of the revival movement. Just like we did at Morobi refugee camp, a committee was formed to identify all church leaders at Kaguru and the neighbouring camps, in order to help us effectively assign them roles for their church ministry.
We were them taken to Rev. Mary Basa’s home where we all shared a delicious meal before heading back to Moyo town at around 7:30pm. On a very sad note, we learned of the demise of Rev. Canon John Lomundu’s wife, Mama Susan Lomundu, who had fought a long battle with cancer, and finally succumbed to the disease earlier that day at a hospital in Arua district. May the Lord rest her in eternal peace.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciations to all who have stood with us in prayer and constantly supported us as we face some of the world’s largest refugee crisis. I would also like to thank the team that visited the refugee camps with me, who included staff from the diocesan development wing, ICT, Radio, and many others who joined. Although we saw our people go through untold suffering in the refugee camps during our visit, there is hope for a better tomorrow, and we continue to pray that they would pursue this, along with love, peace and unity, even in the midst of immense suffering. I would also like to invite all our friends and partners to continue praying for us. May we all continue to seek the face of God and trust him for the redemption and peace of South Sudan
1. Pray for spiritual restoration and trauma recovery of refugees in the camps. Many families are broken. This needs seminars on trauma healing.
2. Pray for provision of living shelter equipment and for provision of mosquito nets. Many families with little children and old people are sleeping without mosquito nets. With the rain season there will be a lot of mosquitoes which will cause malaria.
3. Pray for the school going children/youth who are at home due to lack of schools. They are engage in short of unproductive things be because of idleness. We have encouraged parents and teacher to voluntarily start schools under the trees they use as preaching centres. Many have started but they do not have money for chalk board, chalks and text books for teachers.
4. Pray for sufficient provision of food. The ration of food given to the families is insufficient to reach to the time of the next ratio.
5. Pray for the medical team so that the well-wishers will provide resource to buying or donate more medicine to medical centres in the refugee camps and in the camps of internally displaced people(IDPs)
6. Pray for the women and girls, the most vulnerable in the society. There is water is not enough accomplish their domestic needs in each family, they stay longer in the water points
Thank you for reading this report and for praying with us. Your prayers and support is of paramount importance it will be a great comfort.
If you also wish to sent support to address the above mention difficulties Anglican Aid has an appeal open.