South Sudanese refugees find hope in Christ in their camps
They are in the world’s largest refugee camp in southern Sudan called the Bidi Bidi settlement, where life seems to hold no hope and basic daily necessities are hard to find among the 270,000 refugees but their faith in Christ is unquenchable.
Thousands of Christians in the refugee camp sing and dance in one of the improvised Yoyo Pentecostal churches in the camp.
“We don’t have a voice. We have no authority to even say no to war,” says Rasash, aged 25, who is the preacher. “The solution we have seen is maybe we kneel down praying, because the Bible says the people of Israel suffered like that for many years and when they cried to God, God listened to their prayer. In the same way we shall cry to God so that God will hear our prayer and bring back peace to South Sudan.”
In the Bidi Bidi settlement, the refugees meet in open-air, make shift, churches made from timber. Planks of wood or logs dug into the ground make the pews. The clapping of hands and rhythmic dances substitute for the brass bands. There are no hymn books and there are hardly not enough Bibles to go around. People sometimes share whenever the Bible is read, by two people holding and looking at the page together.
Despite these challenges, what they have in abundance is their love for the Lord. In the camp, there is a lot of songs of praise and dance, and some speaking in tongues.
Lilian Dawa, a refugee who serves as a community mobilizer, says there are about 20 churches in the Bidi Bidi settlement.
“We feel the pain in our hearts. There are many people who are too traumatized to come to church and they don’t know exactly what to do,” said Rasash, who fled South Sudan last year. “There are people who are sick out there and they don’t have anybody to support them. There are no drugs in the hospitals. So that’s why we are praying. God should be the one to help,” he said.
Another new church springing up, a few meters away from Rasash’s, which has neither a name nor a roof, is led by an energetic leadership team that includes 22-year-old Sylvia Sunday, who also fled South Sudan last year.
“The Bible teaches us to be strong, encourages us to be faithful,” she says. “All I want from the leaders of the country is to be faithful. If they can take the word of God and rule using the Bible, it would be good and peace would return.” Sylvia said.
Christianity is the dominant religion in South Sudan. The predominantly Christian South Sudan fought to be independent of the Muslim dominated Sudan in 2011. The conflict raging in South Sudan has degenerated into ethnic violence, experts say, instigated by the Sudanese Islamic government to destabilize the world’s youngest nation.
So far, this seems to be succeeding with hundreds of killed in the civil war, and over two million South Sudanese displaced by the war are scattered in neighboring countries.