Photo Credit: ACT Alliance
By the Venerable Alan Nichols, Multicultural Ministries Coordinator on The Diocese of Melbourne website
It is a rare moment when refugees from a national crisis can advise an Australian agency on the next crisis. But that is what has happened with the new South Sudanese civil war between Dinka and Nuer tribes.
Four South Sudanese who are elders in Anglican parishes in Melbourne yesterday became advisers to Anglican Overseas Aid in how to respond to the crisis. They are the Rev. Daniel Kuol Amol of Dandenong, Abraham Jongroor, community development worker of Melton, the Rev. Daniel Bol Nyieth of North Melbourne, and David Lual Mabior of Ringwood.
Each of these elders and many others in Melbourne have lost relatives in the current armed conflict, which has focussed on the town of Bor near the White Nile River, where most refugees in Australia have come from.
Ten of them were visiting family for Christmas when the trouble broke out. “It is not tribal, it is political,” said David Mabior. And Daniel Kuol Amol said: “If the two leaders – the President and Vice-President – can’t meet around the table, we write to them and say, ‘This must stop’.”
Anglican Overseas Aid international program manager Janice Lucas has been in urgent touch during the past week with ACT Alliance, and other international interchurch networks about the best way to provide emergency relief around the towns of Bor and Guolyar, with a view to shaping an appeal to Australian churches to donate to a special emergency appeal. This network has the support of the Archbishop of Juba and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Today community worker Abraham Jongroor briefed AOA on what has been happening in South Sudan. He was in Bor himself visiting his family for Christmas and introducing his ten year old son to them, when armed conflict broke out in his neighbourhood. His relatives escorted him to safety and he finally got to Kampala where he caught a plane back to Melbourne.
Abraham Jongroor explained how 70,000 people in Bor fled across the White Nile River to Guolyar, where they became isolated, without food, medicine or shelter. Unconfirmed reports indicate as many as 20,000 died, and many others were stricken by cholera living in the open without shelter. As well, families are raising finance to enable or two of their family to cross into Uganda and claim refugee status. For many, their homes and villages have been destroyed, and there is nothing to go home to.
David Mabior said: “This has been mindbreaking for us, it was such a shock. It was Christmas time, but people were collapsing. In the Sudanese churches here in Melbourne, we started praying about this, and praying with Pentecostal and other churches. In this network there are prayers every Friday for four hours from 10am.
“People are getting bad news from Facebook and emails, and our elders said to them: We are donors, not just receivers of aid. We can contribute.”
In a congregation of 400 in Clayton Anglican Church on January 1, they collected $3,000 in cash as a first contribution. This will now be the first donation towards an appeal to be launched by Anglican Overseas Aid.
AOA executive director Bob Mitchell, at the end of the briefing, asked the four Sudanese to be on an ongoing advisory committee to assist AOA in making decisions about an appeal and its consequences. David Mabior said: “It’s now a disaster everywhere, even in the capital Juba. It’s short term but will also be long term.”
The Sudanese group acknowledged the contributions of the Australian Government so far – an initial grant and a loan of two aircraft to assist evacuations. They next look to the Church to make its response. David Mabior added:
“Pray especially for children, who die and don’t even know what has happened to them. And we pray for the suffering to cease.”
In closing the briefing, the Rev. Daniel Nyieth prayed for peace to come in this conflict, which had broken out unexpectedly only two years after South Sudan became an independent nation following 20 years of war with north Sudan.