The Bidi Bidi refugee camp in West Nile, Uganda, is home to almost 300,000 refugees from South Sudan, with more arriving every day. Many of them have witnessed some of the most horrific events imaginable, have lost parents or siblings, have seen neighbours being killed and have watched helplessly while their country has dissolved in front of them.
“Trauma is the biggest problem in this camp,” said Moses Asiku, a refugee living in Bidi Bidi. “We sometimes think we are going crazy or that maybe we have demons – things are happening in our lives that we can’t understand. We have bad dreams, experience hyper-activity, and horrible feelings.”
In mid-March, African Enterprise conducted a week-long mission in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp, partnering with the local Anglican church and reaching out to over 250 religious and camp leaders, like Moses. AE offered hope, providing special training in trauma, reconciliation and peace-building, and ministering the Gospel to each person.
“We need more of this training,” Moses said. “Even church leaders get traumatized.”
And they aren’t the only ones. The children in Bidi Bidi camp exhibit signs of suffering terrible trauma – they have trouble concentrating, are becoming increasingly aggressive and are constantly afraid. AE trained Sunday School teachers from 12 congregations in the camp, collaborating with Children at Risk National Collaboration of Christian Agencies (CaRNaC) to train those teachers in how to help the children in their care.
“Before this, I never thought children were important in the church, I thought they couldn’t understand the Gospel,” said Sunday school teacher Joseph Rems. “But I have learnt that children are strategic and the church must have them participate if we are to win even the coming generations for Christ.”
AE donated outdoor playground equipment to a local church, for children of all tribes and religions to use. “These play items shall attract both Muslims and Christians, providing an opportunity to share and demonstrate the love of Christ,” said Canon Moffat Moffi of Pilgrim’s Church in Yumbe, Uganda.
Most schools in the refugee camp and the surrounding area have become over-crowded and are struggling with resources. The classes are so large that teachers have little control over their students, and many children have to sit outside during lessons. Thousands of children attend each of the refugee camp schools.
During AE’s school ministry, the team visited eight schools, using action songs, storytelling and interactive learning to share the Gospel. One of the teenagers they touched was Oryem Joseph who lives in Bidi Bidi camp and twice has tried to commit suicide. He lost his parents and his home during the conflict in South Sudan and currently lives with a foster family in Bidi Bidi.
“I found life too cruel and I couldn’t think of anything but committing suicide,” he said.
Back in Sudan, Joseph dropped out of school three years ago because his family couldn’t afford the school fees. He now attends one of the camp’s free secondary schools and was there when AE visited. Listening to the Gospel story, he decided to give his life to Christ. “This sharing has touched me,” he said. He has found a new source of hope.
Part of AE’s goal though this mission was to encourage peace-building between Muslims and Christians, and between different tribes within the camp. In Ofonje Primary School, which has 1 570 pupils, the AE team noticed clear tribal divides. The Dinka (tribe) headmaster of that school, Tretty Al-Asan, says he struggles with the feelings of hate in the community. “It has been very hard for me because the community never trusts any Dinka,” he said. “They see us as murderers who killed innocent families in Sudan. Some pupils carry knives or bows and arrows to school to defend themselves in case of any trouble at school!”
He is grateful for the work of the UNHCR in protecting the children and encouraging parents to send them to school but says that no one is taking care of their spiritual needs.
This is a gap AE has stepped in to fill.
Church leaders, women, youth and people living with disability joined in peace and reconciliation workshops during AE’s mission.
“The peace building trainings have been an eye-opener, we can now start building peace within ourselves, and others. Now that we know the conflict issues we have where to start from,” said Micheal Yeka, a South Sudanese Christian living in the camp.
The mission was a massive work and a massive success, thanks to AE’s partners on the ground who provided inroads into the camp, assisted with training and helped navigate the cross cultural differences throughout the week. Gospel rallies in the refugee camp throughout the mission week brought in a harvest of 2077 new followers of Christ.
Thank YOU for your faithful support of African Enterprise and this ministry to the South Sudanese refugees. Without your help we could not go to them with the Gospel. Continue to pray and faithfully support us in this vital ministry!