Down and Dromore’s link with Maridi Diocese in South Sudan is part of a unique concept of mission across three continents; Albany USA, Down and Dromore, sharing together in Mission with the Church in South Sudan through CMS Ireland.
Maridi Diocese and a conflict–torn history
The Diocese of Maridi is situated in Western Equatoria, due west of Juba, the capital city of South Sudan and shares a southern border with DR Congo.
In 2011, South Sudan became an independent country after over 20 years of guerrilla warfare which claimed the lives of at least 1.5 million people and displaced more than four million.
The civil war saw many people in Maridi Diocese forced into exile and much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed. However, when people began to return home and start a new life from scratch, the Church, under the leadership of Bishop Justin Badi, played a pivotal role in the rebuilding of Maridi.
This meant that, amongst other things, the diocese became involved in providing primary and secondary level education, ensuring basic healthcare and enabling HIV/AIDS awareness training.
When a ten–strong team from Down and Dromore and Albany visited Maridi Diocese in October 2012, the country was getting back on its feet. Although the problems facing South Sudan (and the church) were enormous, largely there was peace, and a sense of hope for the future.
Little did we know what would follow:
2013 – Civil war breaks out after the president, Salva Kiir Mayardiit, sacks the cabinet and accuses Vice–President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup. Over 2.2 million people are displaced by the fighting and severe famine puts the lives of thousands at risk.
2015 – Warring sides sign a peace deal to end the civil war, but the conflict continues.
During the last 4 years of his studies in Uganda, Bishop Justin has been in and out of the diocese many times, staying for a few months at a time. Mama Joyce and some of the children have been able to remain in Uganda, although, without more financial resources, this situation will prove impossible to maintain.
Pray for wisdom and for the resources to be released so that the children can remain in a safe location.
Maridi Town and the surrounding countryside within a 2–mile radius remain relatively safe but the area and the church face enormous problems:
- Insecurity, as government and rebel forces engage in violent skirmishes;
- Stretched resources. Since fighting began, 12–14 thousand displaced people have descended on the area – Bishop Justin’s home in the cathedral compound is full of refugees. Those who were successfully cultivating food outside the town cannot return to their fields and hunger is rife.
- Travel by vehicle is almost impossible. Sporadic and unpredictable violence and the scarcity and high cost of fuel mean most have to walk or travel by bicycle. Some estimates put inflation at 800%;
- For many of the displaced children, education has ceased.
As you can imagine, ministry is both difficult and dangerous. Bishop Tandema of neighbouring Olo Diocese recently had to abandon his sermon as gunfire erupted and he and his congregation had to flee for their lives.
On a more positive note, Fields of Life have built a school at Amaki, another block at Haddow and at the moment they are building at Khazana One. If the situation is stable they will fly into Maridi again in November.
Plans to sink wells are on hold as it has been impossible to move suitable machinery into place.
Please pray as the church continues to play its vital part in sharing the gospel and supporting the Maridi community.
These short videos feature Education, Healthcare, Ministry and Youth, Mother’s Union and the Effects of War and the LRA.
The link was forged when Bishop Harold and his wife visited the Diocese of Maridi in 1999 with Canon Cecil Wilson, the former CMSI Director of Mission, and saw at first hand the struggles of the people who were at that time just beginning to return from exile. A number of parishes in the diocese of Down and Dromore were identified and approached about developing a Mission Link with Maridi Diocese and the diocese of Albany also requested to join in this Partnership.
Both Albany and Down and Dromore have responded very generously in practical terms to the very genuine needs that exist in Southern Sudan. Chaima Bible School, founded in 1990 operating under trees, was the inspiration for Bishop Miller to begin the partnership and it moved into new buildings funded by Holywood Parish. The first phase of this new development, opened by Bishop Miller in January 2005, offered Clergy training. As the Province prioritised its Provincial Bible Colleges Chaima was relaunched as Chaima Christian Institute, Maridi, in 2009. Now it provides tertiary training, offering Certificate and Diploma courses in English, management, entrepreneurship, information communication technology, development studies and Business and Administration.
Bicycles for clergy, a vehicle for the bishop, new primary schools, a new health clinic and medicines and a refurbished Guest House have also been provided through the partnership.
The link, however, is primarily about people and building relationships. Over the years joint mission teams from Albany and Ireland have visited Maridi to engage in practical mission and the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama has visited both Albany and Ireland. Very strong links have been forged between all partners as a result.