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Maridi is a market town in the south-west of South Sudan, currently in the State (and Episcopal Internal Province) of Western Equatoria. The area is fertile, with significant teak plantations as well as a good variety of food crops. There are several tribal languages in use, the most prevalent probably being Azande. The area has been relatively peaceful, apart from periodic incursions of Dinka cattle-herders (these have been peacefully resolved), and some conflict in the eastern area, spilling over from the ongoing conflict in Central Equatoria, especially around Yei, between government forces and the National Salvation Front under Thomas Cirillo (who never signed the Peace Agreement).
Christianity came to Maridi in 1921 with the arrival of William Haddow of the Church Mission Society (CMS) – an engineer previously based in Yambio. For two years, he toiled in an effort to establish the work and he was able to report that about eighty people were coming to the services and forty boys were attending school. Sadly, he died of fever in January 1924. But the work of the Gospel continued, initially with local evangelists, and from 1927 with other missionaries. The construction of the present All Saints Cathedral began in 1930. The connection with CMS has continued: Rev. Canon Patricia Wick served in Maridi in various roles related to theological education from 1998 till about 2014; and currently Lynn Treneary is teaching English at the Chaima Christian Institute and assisting the Bishop in other ways. The centenary of Christianity in Maridi will be celebrated in 2022 (deferred from 2021 for practical reasons).
Maridi officially became a parish in 1947 and an Archdeaconry in 1950. The first Bishop, consecrated as Area Bishop within the Diocese of Yambio, was Rt. Revd. Joseph Marona, later Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan; he was enthroned as Diocesan Bishop in 1989. His successor was Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, consecrated in 2001 – who in turn was elected Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan in 2019. His successor, and the present Bishop is Rt Revd Moses Zungo.
The Episcopal Church of Sudan (and now both Episcopal Churches of Sudan and South Sudan) has enjoyed a partnership link with Salisbury Diocese for over 45 years; within that link, deaneries have links to individual dioceses. Maridi is linked with Heytesbury Deanery in Wiltshire, a link active since 2009, and there have been visits both ways, as well as regular communication and support in prayer, friendship and fund-raising. Maridi also has links with Down & Dromore Diocese in the Church of Ireland, and with Albany Diocese in the Episcopal Church of the USA.
The present diocese has six archdeaconries – Kozi is 55 miles from Maridi and hard to reach; Amaki and Mabrindi are to the East; Cathedral and Central Archdeaconries are in and around Maridi Town, with very many parishes; Eddi is to the south east, previously badly affected by raids from the Lord’s Resistance Army and then by the civil war so many of the people are now in Maridi Town. The area is jungle and forest, and inaccessible in the rains.
The Diocese runs the Chaima Christian Institute, which provides certificate and diploma courses in theology, social sciences, agriculture, English Language, computing and other vocational training. It has recently been accepted as a campus of the new Episcopal University. The Diocese also has seven primary schools, the Haddow Secondary School and the Bethsaida Clinic. The latter is supplied with drugs by Salisbury Medical Link and has been recently extended, with a four-bed maternity ward. The Mothers’ Union is extremely active – the Centre in Maridi has a goat project and a sewing machine project, and supports 40 orphans and 20 widows, as well as training a group of “vulnerable” girls. In every parish and Archdeaconry, the MU fulfils a very active support role to clergy and lay leaders. Young people are also active members of most churches in the Diocese of Maridi, and they play vital roles in the evangelization in the parishes. Youth leaders in every parish are coordinated by the Archdeaconry youth leaders and the Diocesan coordinator, Rev Phillip John. At Bishop Moses’ request, a SOMA conference for youth leaders was held in 2018 and another one, requested for late 2021, is on hold.
To attract younger members a Christian Fellowship Group network has been set up. This network already has several hundred members throughout the diocese, and it is hoped to draw in younger people.
Although the Diocese has not apparently suffered unduly from Covid 19 – possibly because of its remoteness from Juba and other main cities, as well as because of poor transport links – it has experienced other disasters. In February, wildfires swept through the area and many huts and food granaries were burnt out. In early April, a freak storm swept the roof off one classroom wing at Chaima Christian Institute; mercifully, no-one was hurt. In both cases, Heytesbury Deanery was able to respond not only with prayer but with significant donations.
‘Peace Catalysts’ –Healing the wounds of heart in Amadi State, South Sudan
By the Rt. Rev. Bismark Monday Avokaya – Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of Mundri of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan – Internal Province of Amadi.
Conflict in South Sudan and world over, has never been good and in most cases has stalled development and created ethnic tensions, as is the case in South Sudan. Particularly in a situation when the majority of the population are illiterate. Such is the situation in South Sudan.
South Sudan, was applauded when it got independence in 2011 for its resilience and liberation struggle. But this was short lived when fighting erupted in December 2013 within the members of Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) splitting their command loyalty between the two Principals. Unfortunately, the said forces mercilessly fought amongst themselves, slaughtered and carried out numerous atrocities within a short period in South Sudan. Sadly this barbaric action changed the narrative and face of South Sudan among the nations of the world to date.
It dehumanized the dignity of south Sudanese immensely creating huge hatred and mistrust amongst the 64 tribes of South Sudan with negative impact on the relationship with the international community as well. The conflict – of unimaginable proportion – forced some individuals to slaughter their own community members and carried enormous atrocities. The conflict, made those with guns to never trust one another. The civil authorities have not been respected either and often humiliated and tortured as well. Hence the UN has put a conservative figure of 400,000 people who have died during the conflict since 2013.
However, going by the current events there is hope for peace and stability to prevail in South Sudan, yet to have sustainable peace there is huge need for genuine change of attitude and paradigm shift on the mindset for the armed forces and the civil population. Given that the conflict had inflicted intense fear in the country’s populace. Subsequently, such fear has created wounds in the hearts of many which need healing. Therefore, the only remedy is to turn to the Lord for healing therapy through Trauma Healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and Peace Building processes!
Given its God-given mandate, the Diocese of Mundri, conducted a ‘Trauma Healing and Peace Building’ workshop for the Government organised forces, Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army In Opposition (SPLA -IO) and the Civil Authority in Mundri town on October 31st to Nov. 4th, 2019. The workshop which was attended by over 130 participants, was graced by the four Bishops of Internal Province of Amadi, the Governor of Amadi state, his Deputy, Ministers, Commissioners and Chiefs. The target beneficiaries were the command structure of the Gov. Army, other organized forces, the SPLA – IO and Civil Authority, and it was remarkable and befitting to the purpose of consolidating trust and confidence building amongst these forces in Amadi State.
The Revitalised Peace Agreement (RPA), signed in Addis Ababa in September 2018 provided an opportunity for relative peace. This Revitalised Agreement, is an opportunity for the world and friends of South Sudan to stand in solidarity for realising peace and stability. As it is a known fact that South Sudan has never enjoyed peace! But for peace to prevail it may require concerted efforts of everyone to embrace peace. And the intense fear of revenge, trauma and psychological related experiences, as a result of persistent culture of war, can only be defused by God through the ministry of the Church by teaching the Bible.
The church in South Sudan – as an intermediary – managed to bring sanity and relative peace by initiating peace building and trauma healing processes and at many times bringing the opposition fighting forces and civilians together for dialogue and reconciliation. Such processes are mitigation and change processes which are vital for soldiers and civil authority.
The Diocese of Mundri has Christians, some of who are in the armed forces, who are traumatized and live under perpetual tension, anger, hallucination and hatred caused by the conflict. This condition affects the social fabric of the society and the church teachings. But the workshop was able to bring leaderships of both the government forces and opposition together for candid discussion, reflection, confession and healing with a view to healing the wounds in the heart and consolidating trust between the civil community and those with arms in order to restore trust and build confidence in relationships for a peaceful co-existence.
The vast urban sprawl of the city of Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri has suffered the most from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, with people unable to commute to work, and markets shut down. The Cathedral was badly hit as its congregation lives distant from it, but its work is slowly building up again. Hassan, the Dean, sadly died, but the former Diocesan Secretary, Daniel Musa has now been appointed to lead the work.
For many years Archbishop Ezekiel has laboured alone as Diocesan Bishop, leading the church nationally and internationally. The Revd Canon Fajak Avajani is now about to be appointed as Assistant Bishop which will create a great change.
Fajak’s heritage is from the Tira people of the eastern Nuba Mountains. As a youth he migrated to Omdurman for education but later moved to Port Sudan. He describes how one evening in 1983 when he was 19 he sat waiting for the church night school to commence. He listened to two classmates debate an article entitled “Children of Darkness and Children of Light”. He didn’t join in, because he was not a Christian whereas they were, but the subject stuck in his mind. That night as he slept he dreamed that a man came with a big black book and called him to wake up and read Psalm 51. Fajak did not know what the word Psalm meant. “A great fear came upon me that night, and the sleep ran away from my eyes.”
The next night, after classes he asked the Revd Daniel Deng Bul (later Archbishop of Sudan), who at that time was the ECS pastor in charge of Port Sudan, the meaning of his dream. Daniel pulled out a big, black bound English Bible and showed him Psalm 51 and explained it to him. “Tears started running from my eyes. I cried out loudly ‘Lord save me! I want to be your child, a child of light.’ With tears and brokenness in my heart I gave my life to Jesus and asked Him to give me a new Spirit to lead me forever. After this prayer I felt great joy in my heart.” Three years later he was sent to Juba for ordination training, and four years after that was asked to work on Bible translation in Omdurman. For some years now he has been the head of the ECS Bible Translation department.
Blue Nile State is part of this diocese. For years it was inaccessible; a war zone in the same way as the Nuba Mountains. With peace agreements now in place, contact has been resumed. Led by the Diocesan Relief and Development Officer, Andrew Macek, much needed aid has been delivered to the churches there through funding provided by Leeds and Salisbury Dioceses. They have also been able to minister to the camps in White Nile State where thousands of South Sudanese refugees are living, mainly women and children. They arrive with few resources and are in need of basic assistance.
All four States that form Wad Medani Diocese fall into the lowest rank of what the United Nations calls a Human Development Index. That looks at life expectancy, educational opportunity and per capita income to create a benchmarked statistic. It says that all across this Diocese, life is limited for people to be able to “be” and “do” desirable things – to be well fed, sheltered, and healthy; or to find work or education, or be able to vote and participate in community life.
Ministering to such a starved community leaves the Diocese with few resources and Leeds Diocese has for some years tried to help by giving funding for an income generation scheme that will help it take steps towards financial self-sufficiency. The plan close to completion is the creation of commercial property in the cathedral grounds that can be rented out. Bishop Saman has earmarked the first income to renovate the diocesan school and adult education facilities, and to create two centres for youth and women’s (MU) work. We pray that the business plan works and good things happen.
This rural Diocese covers the Nuba Mountains, where the Church Mission Society did much foundational work. Here the Episcopal Church has its most members, and its largest number of clergy. Bp Andudu is active in the southern part and has recently conducted a successful visitation to Katcha and the area around. He describes the atmosphere as being a spiritual revival with a great need for Bibles and tools such as the Jesus film. “Many bad things happened in the Nuba Mountains during the war but only good things are taking place in the church. The church is growing.” In the photo he is seen in the ruins of a mission era church building conducting a Confirmation service, with some of the more than 1,000 candidates he confirmed in that visit.
Much reconstruction work is needed in the Diocese, with all communal buildings such as schools and church centres having been bombed. In the northern part of the Diocese, Assistant Bishop Hassan is working, and with funding from Bradford on Avon Deanery and Leeds Diocese he has re-established the Diocesan centres in Kadugli Town and opened a new, church Primary School. Education across the whole Nuba Mountains has been severely disrupted during these war years. Few children attend schools, and for those who can afford to the school is in congested, makeshift classrooms without proper facilities. There’s a huge need for literacy development and teaching materials to be supplied to informal schools created and managed by parents. ACROSS is supplying MegaVoice audio players which contain teacher training material, school sanitation programs, HIV/Aids information, Gospel music and testimonials as well as the Bible and other content. The MegaVoice device is about the size of a mobile telephone, and has a solar panel on the back. The memory chip has capacity for up to 100 hours of training programs. The sound volume is suitable for about 20-30 people in a quiet place. When charged for a day in sunlight it runs for 2-3 hours.
Ministry & Training in the Diocese of Maiwut by the Rt Rev Peter Gatbel Kunen, Bishop of Maiwut
The Diocese of Maiwut is one of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan dioceses. It was newly created in 2017, inaugurated in 2018, and the Diocese has achieved many good things included the training of pastors, mother’s union, youth and chaplain. With the little we have, the Diocese supported the vulnerable groups especially those affected by wars, Covid – 19, flood and famine in parishes and villages.
It’s a great privilege to be with my community in which I regularly visit IDPs, returnees, refugees and host community in Maiwut and Longechuk counties. According to my recent visits to parishes, our Diocese had congregations of more than 22,000 members, 36 pastors, 10 deacons, 107 lay-readers, 300 Mothers’ Union, 1972 youth, 2000 choirs, 1532 Sunday school children. We are committed to preach the Gospel to the people of the Greater Maiwut and Longechuk in Upper Nile, South Sudan.
As the Bishop of Maiwut, I am now engaging our clergy, deacons, layreaders, Mothers’ Union, youth and choir through workshops, neutral forums, capacity building forums, truth peacebuilding, reconciliation, counselling and healing forums in search of peace.
We facilitated the workshops in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda and thank those who supported us spiritually and financially. Our Diocese is a very welcoming Diocese, the Mothers’ Union and youth groups welcomed visitors in traditional ways by washing feet, hands, dancing, singing, prayers and words of appreciation. The Diocese holds our friends and partners in prayers and hearts both in Africa and aboard.
Our Diocese is located in the Eastern part of South Sudan and borders the Gambella region in the west of Ethiopia. However, Maiwut was, and is still, a historical place since the beginning of the SPLM/A movements, and it’s one of the places where Dr. John Garang formed his movement and established his headquarters in Bilpam, Jekow, Malual, Thiajak and many others. Also, it was the first area where South Sudanese refugees were settled in refugee camps and other camps near Gambella, Ethiopia.
In Maiwut, there are people of many different backgrounds that share their languages, cultures and faiths with their neighbouring communities and value inclusiveness. These people need the Gospel of Christ and want to talk to God in their own languages. The Church is growing rapidly and we thank God for what we have achieved and worked on all the challenges we faced in our community.
Maiwut Diocese facilitated workshops and the training that focused on God’s word, peace, true reconciliation, love, forgiveness and repentance. A team from Flame International and also Rev. Tim Hayes (vicar of St. John’s Duckenfield in UK) accepted our invitation to come here. Rev. Tim facilitated training in Gambella, Ethiopia in 2018 and Flame International team went to Pagak in the Diocese of Maiwut 2019. These sessions brought clergy, mothers’ union, youth and chaplains together.
Flame and Rev. Tim bravely accepted our invitation to an unknown world…it is the first time for them to meet people from Maiwut and Longechuk and it’s our first to meet people from UK as well.
Here is a short profile about Tim.
He was ordained in the Church of England 29 years ago and has been the vicar of St. John’s Church in Dukinfield which is in Manchester, a city in the North West of England for 24 years. Heis married to Kate and has two sons Ben (25) who is married to Hannah and Sam (23). He is always excited about preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and to see churches, built on the authority of God’s word, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and bringing transformation into the community.
Tim enjoys climbing mountains and listening to music. He loves football Manchester United team and is happy to be in Gambella meeting different people cultures, language and food, he likes people wearing his football team uniforms in Gambella, Ethiopia.
Rev Tim’s visit brought our clergy and church leaders together, learning God’s word and united them as a family in God.
Tim is a good preacher and at the same time he likes singing songs, dancing, praying, and talking to people in Churches and homes. Our clergy and Church leaders like him and they want him and his friends to visit us again next year if another opportunity comes. Brother Rev Tim, we really love you so much and wish you good health.
AFRICAN CHRISTIAN KUSH AID PROGRAM (ACKAP)
ACKAP is our Diocese developmental organization that filled the gap by providing food, non-food items, education, health, WASH, gender equality, peacebuilding and counselling in order to support the most vulnerable groups who are suffering due to war, Covid – 19, flood and drought. ACKAP registered by Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in South Sudan and the organization is an independent NGO that qualified to do fundraising and can received donations from inside and outside South Sudan.
THE NEED OF EMERGENCY RELIEF IN THE DIOCESE
The war, Covid -19 and flooding have affected the community in the Diocese, therefore, basics such as soap, plastic sheet, plastic buckets, sleeping mates, gumboots, torches, water purification agent, oral rehydration salts, blankets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, mosquito guard/spray, cooking utensils, maize, sorghum and bean seeds, cooking oil and medicines for malaria and other diseases are lacking in the areas. We need your prayers and support.
Training, workshop, uniforms, church building materials and small support to the pastors that can motive their works as well are needed.
The Diocese is very far from the ECSS headquarters, the communications, transport to attend meetings and conferences, office rent and accommodation are very difficult.
PASTORS THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES
The Diocese of Maiwut sent six pastors to theological colleges, one in Ethiopia, one in Kenya, two in Juba and two in Uganda. The aim of their studies is to gain knowledge and skills that they will bring to the Diocese and community. After finishing these colleges, they will come to train others. However,the colleges they studied in paid only the school fees of three pastors and the diocese struggles to pay three pastors transport, cost of books and the school fees.
International Volunteer Project Coordinator
The Diocese of Maiwut needs an International volunteer project coordinator/s that can coordinate our projects and raise funds for the various projects in the Diocese. We pray that and encourage CASSS to find someone for us.
Shortage of food, health services, education and other humanitarian issues are the major concerns of communities. People and children are manipulated to indulge in theft/robbery, abuse of drugs/alcohol/cigarettes and taking up arms thus engaging in conflict. Women, children and elderly have also been left without support in Greater Maiwut and Longechuk areas.
Although there are many NGOs, a lot remains to be done to fill in the gaps, not only by the church but also the community leaders as well. Therefore, we ask our brothers and sisters to support us spiritually and financially. Matthew 25:40 “When we give, we are giving to Jesus” Proverbs 19:17 “When we give, we are investing”
It is my prayer request that the Lord will bless you abundantly as you become part of the solution to the problems which have robbed the peace that God has granted to his children in South Sudan.