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Inside the exiled South Sudanese diocese of Kajo-Keji

Posted on: April 12, 2017 10:27 AM
Priests from the South Sudanese diocese of Kajo-Keji in a Ugandan refugee camp.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Kajo-Keji's Voice of Hope newsletter

The third Bishop of the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, Emmanuel Murye Modi, was consecrated and installed on 15 January this year. 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 Diocese of Kajo-keji’s newsletter, Voice of Hope, reports.

Last month, Bishop Emmanuel made a series of pastoral visits to the refugees and saw how the Church was encouraging the refugees with a message of hope to the displaced and grieved.

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“We visited Morobi and Bidi Bidi which is the largest camp in the world according to reports by UNHCR,” the Voice of Hope’s Maziina Fred said. “It is estimated to host over 290,000 South Sudanese excluding the non-registered refugees. Other camps include Belameling, Chinyidi, Pasu and Koguru.

“We visited the Cathedral Dean, Canon Pianilee, in the camp to pray together and counsel him for the loss of his brother (Wojo) who was robbed and killed on the way from Kajo-Keji. Due to insecurity in Kajo-Keji, his body was buried in the camp. He is survived with a widow and four children. Please pray for them.

“At Morobi, we visited a scene where a lady had jumped into a blazing fire and burnt to death, perhaps due to trauma, stress and depression.

“We met some of the displaced and resettled pastors from all denominations now in the camps. Many of them are struggling to start-up churches. At the moment Christians are praying under the trees. Many families are separated from their loved ones.

“By the time of our visits, many had not yet received tents and there are rampant sicknesses. There is no access to medicines and the schools are not enough. In one of the schools there were more than 400 children in a single class!”

He continued: “There was also little or no access to water (especially drinking water) and animals are dying from lack of water, People survive on two cups of beans and four cups of maize flour for a month... the list can continue.

“We prayed together under the trees. Many don't have Bibles or hymn books, but still with faith many attended the prayers.”

The Church is mobilising its active and retired priests, and mission agencies like the Mothers’ Union to assist in the camps.

They are helping to establish pre-school, primary and secondary classes for the children; and have applied for permission from the Ugandan authorities to run mobile health clinics.

The church has started a number of congregations that meet under trees. They are trying to raise funds to purchase airtime on the Voice of the Nile radio station for its Reaching Out To All evangelism and discipleship programme.

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The diocese says it needs Bibles, prayer books and hymnals, in both English and Bari languages, to develop its ministry. It has also lost its financial support to sustain the diocese following the loss of community offerings.

The diocese is urging people to pray for peace in South Sudan and for “blessings to Uganda for hosting the people of Kajo-Keki in particular and South Sudanese at large.” They also urge prayer for “the government soldiers to see humanity – to stop killing innocent civilians and to stop looting property of the people.”

Photos taken from the diocese of Kajo-Keji’s Voice of Hope newsletter