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