Uganda churches burned during attack on refugee camp
Fleeing a civil war in their homeland, people from the African nation of Sudan sought refuge in neighboring Uganda.
Instead, they found themselves in the middle of another civil war.
The decades-long conflict between the mainly Muslim north Sudan and animist and Christian south has sent thousands of refugees into camps in north Uganda. In August one of those camps, which included two churches of Christ, was attacked by a force rebelling against the Ugandan government.
The rebels, who call themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army, attacked a camp in the Acholpii region, burning almost everything they could not carry, said long-time Africa missionary John Ed Clark. ‘None of our members were among those killed,’ he said. Church buildings at Agago and Block 7 were burned in the attack, he said.
About 20,000 refugees from Acholpii came to the Kiryandongo camp, adding to the shortage of food and water faced by the 28,000 refugees already living there, said church member Isaya Jackson.
‘Our church building is full of people, numbers of families are camping there,’ Jackson wrote to supporters. ‘The refugees lost almost all their belongings in the attack.’ Gospel Outreach to Sudan, supported by the Woodward Park church, Fresno, Calif., put $3,000 toward emergency relief in Uganda.
In early October, Clark said the Uganda government was resettling the refugees into other camps. Church members planned to establish churches in those camps and send for Jackson to help them launch evangelism efforts.
Many refugees hope to return to Sudan, where tensions between the Muslim-controlled government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which controls cities in the south, seemed to ease when the two sides signed a interim peace agreement July 20, Clark said. However, government officials pulled out of peace talks in early September, and the two sides resumed attacks at the end of the month, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.
Jackson, himself a refugee from Sudan, went to Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from Sunset International Bible Institute before he moved to Uganda in 1998 to evangelize the Sudanese in the camps. Missionaries and World Bible School students started similar efforts in camps of refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya, which border Sudan on the east. Some converts have dared to cross back into Sudan, and have established at least five churches of Christ there, missionaries said.
Clark said he and other U.S. supporters hope to train additional preachers to begin congregations in Sudan. To that end, he said church members were praying for a lasting peace in south Sudan so that ‘our brethren can return to their homes and take the gospel of Christ with them.’