Lives are being redeemed inside the world’s largest refugee camp.
Hundreds of thousands of people from South Sudan have fled to the Bidi Bidi Refuge Settlement in Uganda to escape their country’s ongoing brutal civil war. Here victims and their victimizers find healing through faith in Christ.
“I can’t sleep unless I keep on praying,” Achol Kuol, a mother of five, told Religion News Service. “I always have nightmares. In my dreams I go back to my old village and I see how my friends were shot dead. They keep on calling me, ‘Achol! Achol! Achol!’ And I would wake up screaming.”
Koul joins many others who attend the open-air churches in the camps. There, she reads comforting scriptures while others cry out to ask God for forgiveness for the violence they committed during the war in South Sudan.
“Many refugees usually go to church because it’s the only likely place in the camp where they can get help to recover from the trauma,” Gabriel Mayen, a trauma counselor at Bidi Bidi said. “The church gives them new hope, which is important to refugees and any person who has experienced trauma.”
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, broke out into a civil war between the government and opposition forces in 2013. Since then, millions have been displaced while others face severe violence and starvation.
Koul’s husband is one of the many who have been killed. She fled the violence with her children, but one died of hunger. She credits Jesus for saving her life.
“I passed through a difficult time,” she said. “God saved me from death, and I had to accept him. In God I find peace, and I don’t have nightmares … though the memories of the killings still haunt me.”
There are dozens of churches in the refugee camp, each one working to heal the wounds of war.
“The church has played a vital role in unifying the people of South Sudan who had hated each other,” Pastor John Deng of Christ Ministry Church said. “We are happy that people are living peaceful in the camp away from home.”
Deng is a refugee himself and was forced to flee the violence. During a recent church service, he told the refugees their only hope is Jesus.
“Our country is cursed,” he said, according to RNS. “The only hope we have is heaven. It’s written that shedding someone’s blood is the work of the devil and anybody who is killing people is doing the work of the devil. We need to kneel down and ask God for forgiveness if we want him to bring peace in our country.”