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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sudan: “We will not let evil triumph”



An Ethiopian HOPE International Development Agency staff member recently visited our friends and colleagues in Sudan, Africa.

This, below, is his account of a trip to see the refugee families that HOPE has been assisting since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacked their villages on the Sudan-Democratic Republic of Congo border for unknown reasons.

His experience is a plangent reminder of two things: the extraordinary stresses that our Sudanese colleagues endure in order to care for the poor and distressed, and just how profound the need for this care really is.
We had a flat tire and were late getting to the border town. About 9pm, as we approached the town, a guy jumped in front of our vehicle, pointing his AK 47 assault rifle at the head of the driver as he shouted something to us.

I was in the passenger seat next to the driver and was shocked and afraid. I did not want the armed guy to take my new NOKIA cell phone! I had only had it for one week and had used it as my camera, taking many pictures of the journey. I wanted to hide it somewhere before they came up to the car. The problem was it was in my shirt pocket. Moving my hand just then could be fatal. The guy still has his gun aimed right at us.

The gunman shouted something. The Bishop, who was driving, turned his headlights off. Then he turned on the light inside the vehicle. Now I could see nothing outside. Where was the gunman? Would he approach from my side? No, he would most probably approach from the driver's side. Surely he would not hurt a Bishop.

The gunman then appeared on the driver's side and said something loud and harsh. I heard the word “Bishop” in the driver’s answer. Suddenly the gunman says, “Hey Bishop!” He then smiles, taps on the vehicle’s roof and says something in a light voice and laughs, as if this was just a joke.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) sees the Bishop laughing as we resume driving. As if this was nothing but an introduction. I later realised it was just relief that had the Bishop laughing, not the LRA. I was quiet for the rest of the drive.

The next morning, I met and talked with victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Led by a possessed man named Joseph Kony, the LRA is a terrorist organization with no real political agenda. The LRA has been terrorizing people in Uganda, southern Sudan, and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Pastor that had been displaced along with his congregation described to me what happened in his village in February of this year.

“At midnight we heard gunfire. The LRA had killed 16 people. They took many children and looted everything we had. All we could do was run for our lives. Today, we have nothing left. We cannot go back. They can come back at any time. It is a chance we cannot take.” I could feel the terror in his voice as he told me the story. I could read the pain on his face.

This is pure evil. It displaces entire villages, enslaves children, and destroys lives. I hate it. That is why I am here. I want to do something good. I want to bring healing. I want to tell these people that there is some good in the world and that there are good people in the world – and that these good people will stand with them in this their darkest hour. They will help them pick up the pieces and stand on their own feet again.

I am here because HOPE International Development Agency is working with The Episcopal Church of Sudan to help these displaced people. I promised them we would not forget about them. We will not let evil triumph.

Then I quietly suggested to Bishop Kamani that we start the drive back early. Now that I have met its victims, I had no desire to meet the LRA.

It goes without saying that all of the people at HOPE International Development Agency feel the same way. Stories like these make us so grateful for our overseas colleagues. Their experiences feed into the heart of our endeavours, giving us the passion we need to sustain the work.

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