Rosie

Refugees in Gambella

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I spent 10 days in Gambella (in the west of Ethiopia) in April. Since the war broke out in neighbouring South Sudan, 150 000 new refugees have arrived and the number could rise to up to 300 000 by the end of this year. The total population of Gambella before the conflict was 380 000 so this is a huge strain on the already scarce resources of this region.

As many of the refugees are from Anglican churches, we have new congregations in the camps. I joined Bishop Grant and Wendy to visit Akula refugee camp. As we entered in a landrover, I felt like an outsider – viewing poverty from behind a glass window. But as I joined the church service, I became a member of God’s family worshipping together. ‘Church’ was a large tree around where 3000 Christians from many denominations were gathered. The camp, then only one month old, already sheltered 33 000, with more arriving daily.

Glimpses of the stories and thoughts of those who have fled here for shelter:

“My sister died on the way. Her children were suffering from dehydration so they were brought here for medical care without being registered. Now they are with me, but they are not registered, so I cannot get food ration cards for them. Pray that I can get rations to feed them”

“My husband Jacob has been missing since December 15th. I can get no news. I pray to know if he is alive or dead.”

“We should not be surprised at the calamity which has fallen upon us. It says in the Bible that these things can happen. But be encouraged, for nothing, not even this, can separate us from the love of God.”

“It was quarreling that brought us here. We must forsake quarreling.”

“Let us greet one another, and when Jesus comes, we will all love one an-other.” “Let us kneel together before our Jesus”

Bishop Grant was invited to preach: “Jesus hates suffering and death. He wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. A couple of weeks later, he gave him-self to die on the cross and to rise again, de-feating suffering and death. Because Jesus rose from the dead we know that one day there will be no death, there will be no suffering – God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And on that day people from every tribe will be together around the throne – white people and Chinese and Arab and Nuer and Anuak and Dinka and Murle – so we should get used to being together now!”

Many of our partners have given generously to the newly arrived refugees, and spoken out about the situation which is lost in the world news. See this video for more info about the situation in Gambella and South Sudan: anglicanaid.net/south-sudan-appeal

New Prison Ministry in Alexandria

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The Anglican Church recently started a new prison ministry in Alexandria, on the north coast of Egypt. This new ministry is co-ordinated by Nabila, a member of the St Mark’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria.

There are 8 regular volunteers from different denominations. There are also 4 students from the Alexandria School of Theology joining the prison ministry for the practical component of their training. The team visit Borg el Arab Prison and Hadra Prison. Borg el Arab is located 45 kilometres south-west of Alexandria. It is a men only prison, and there are 8 foreigners and 250 Egyptians. The conditions in which the men live are very poor. The cells are underground and have only small windows. Many men share the same rooms and there are no beds, only mattresses on the floor. Skin diseases are common. As most of the Egyptian men are from other areas of Egypt, they receive few visitors and no one else provides for them except this ministry.

One of the challenges facing the men and women at El Kanater Prison is the lack of health care and medicine. The prisoners asked if we could bring non-prescription medicine for them such as cold/flu medicine, bandages and painkillers. We bought some one time through a pharmacy, but it was expensive and it is difficult for us to afford extra expenses, as we only just cover our running costs. It was therefore a great blessing when Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf offered to provide the medicine for free. Harpur Memorial Hospital is another ministry of the Anglican Church, founded more than a century ago with a mission to serve the poor. It is wonderful that our ministries can support and serve each other!

Impressions from Visitors

“I recently joined the prison visit knowing it would be an experience, just not sure what kind. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spoke with three men from the prison – one from Europe, one from the Africa, and one from Central America. For me, there was a huge disconnect between the joy that I saw in them, and the length of their sentences. At times it was hard holding back tears. I came away thinking that I had seen something on Christ in meeting them.” Andre

“After my first visit to the prison my heart was so warmed by how God can meet people at their lowest point, I was super excited that I couldn’t sleep nor get the prisoners out of my head and prayers. I was also a very humbling experience to see myself not better than any of them, I could have been in their place easily if wasn’t for God’s grace.” Silvia

Air Tickets Saving Lives

There are many Eritrean refugees at El Kanater Prison. Many are victims of human trafficking. They are either kidnapped, or promised a better life and pay a high fee to leave Eritrea. They arrive in the Sinai region of Egypt, one of the most notorious routes for human trafficking in the world and well documented abuse. Many are tortured, raped, and cases of organ harvesting have been reported. There is also extortion, where desperate families will pay large ransoms for the freedom of their loved ones.

Often, the traffickers will call the Egyptian authorities, and the prisoners are rounded up and brought to Egyptian prisoners. Our Prison Ministry has in the past supplied basic needs to these prisoners. There are currently 5 Eritrean men who can return to their families. We have funds for three air tickets, and need to raise funds for the remaining two.

If you’re interested in helping getting these men home, please email jon@nzcms.org.nz