Friday, 4 May 2018

A sobering experience

It’s a sobering experience visiting the camps of Northern Uganda, writes my colleague David. Here several million South Sudanese have found refuge.  You won’t see the pot-bellied signs of starvation but sit awhile with these people and you will hear their distressing and horrendous stories. Stories of what they have seen, what they have lived through and the friends and family members they have lost through the ongoing fighting in South Sudan.

In the camps we talked with several young teenagers who have no other family and who have become head of their households.  Their experiences and the resulting trauma are destroying their lives. There is bed-wetting, uncontrollable weeping, anger and an inability to cope with the smallest of problems or to fit in at school.

The effects of trauma run deep and are hard to deal with.  It's like pouring a lot of clean water into a glass of dirty water.  It doesn't remove the dirt at the bottom of the glass.

How can the church help bring transformation in such challenging circumstances?  How does Church and Community Transformation (CCT) need to be adapted for refugee camps?  Tearfund’s partner, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, brought together a number of Christian organisations and denominations to try to find answers together.

What changes are required? Well, for a start the three year CCT process needs to speed up as the refugee community is transient.  Secondly, trauma healing and psycho-social awareness must be central to the process and to every interaction with these individuals and communities.  Thirdly peace and reconciliation is needed. It is vital to deal with the hatred and unforgiveness as Nuer and Dinka tribes continue a bitter conflict in South Sudan and bring the roots with them over the border into Uganda.

Bringing hope and joy to the refugee camps
One of the South Sudanese said, “People pray in their tribes” ie they have churches based on tribal allegiances.  Please pray instead that the walls of difference, such as Dinka and Nuer will be broken down through Christ (Ephesians 2 v14-22).  

And before we start judging these Christians in another land let's remember the way we may need to change. In my country, Britain, congregations of different colour and ethnicity often worship largely separately.  How about in your country? Is it time for us to help to break down barriers too?




You may like to read more in the book ‘What is the what?’ Dave Eggers based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese child refugee.














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