Messy South Sudan struggles

Photo by World Mission

(Photo by World Mission)

South Sudan (MNN) — The United Nations just issued a report documenting atrocities on both sides in the civil war in South Sudan.

Civil war has engulfed South Sudan since December, when fighting began between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar. The ethnic dimension quickly emerged: South Sudan’s two largest groups, the Dinka and the Nuer. Mr. Kiir is a Dinka, while Mr. Machar is a Nuer.

Although peace talks have stalemated time and again, however, Kiir and Machar met Friday for negotiations through Ethiopia’s Prime Minister again. At 30-day truce was supposed to have taken effect on April 07. Matt Parker, Executive Vice President of Kids Alive International, says, “Be praying for an end to the fighting. The country’s leaders need to get together. They need to put their personal differences aside. They need to put the people of South Sudan first, and they need to seek a meaningful resolution.”

As the ethnic dimension fractured along the tribal and religious lines, thousands of people have been killed; more than a million have been displaced. Parker says, “Some of those are within South Sudan. Some of those have gone to other surrounding countries like Sudan, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Certainly there are quite a number of refugees in the area where we are.”

In some areas, he describes the scene this way: “Many of the refugees across the country are now trapped in remote areas, difficult to reach with humanitarian aid. There’s been massive destruction of housing, hospitals that have been looted, many schools have been occupied.”

(Photo courtesy World Renew)

(Photo courtesy World Renew)

Noting that the United Nations has warned that famine threatens much of the country, Parker added, “This is a critical time of year in South Sudan. The rainy season is a time when the farmers need to get out in their fields, they need to be preparing their land, they need to be planting their crops. But farmers are just not able to get out. They’re just not able to get into their fields because of the risk, because of the fear of being attacked.” It has gotten so vicious that some reports say people are fleeing TO Darfur for safety.

Wau is the town where Kids Alive has its children’s home. The current lull feels tenuous as the violence could easy become a conflagration once more in their streets. Parker says the strain is taking an emotional toll. “This is really tough for kids. A lot of kids that we work with in the town of Wau: there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of concern. People are really worried about the situation [and] what the future holds.”

The other problem: the seeds of South Sudan’s next generation are being watered in war, and that could take enmity into a generational cycle. Up until recently, Wau has been insulated from the discord. That changed at the end of April with a massacre of civilians. Amid the stench of death, Parker says, “There’s now an uneasy calm in the town. There are real fears, though, that the violence might start up again.” However, there’s good news, too. “We thank God that the kids that we work with in our children’s home there and the staff continue to be safe. The kids are still in school.”

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

Kids Alive’s focus is on the entire child. The ministry meets the physical, emotional, AND spiritual needs of each child through Christ-centered care, education, and ministry. Christian caregivers in their Children’s Homes and community programs nurture and encourage these children to become faithful followers of Jesus that give hope to their community. “Pray, particularly, through this time of uncertainty and insecurity, that the kids would keep their eyes on the Lord.”

There are a significant number of refugee families in the area around Wau, where Kids Alive has their Children’s Home, and many have only very limited access to shelter, food, water, and other basic supplies. Kids Alive is trying to supply basic needs: food, soap, sandals, medicines, clothing, and plastic sheets.

As the ministry stretches its resources, Parker urges, “Pray for Kids Alive. We’re there. We’re bringing hope to children that would otherwise have no hope. Pray for protection of the kids that we work with, of the families that we work with, in the community.”