My visit to Juba was a long-anticipated journey that held both excitement and trepidation. South Sudan had always been a place of intrigue for me, primarily because of the stories I had heard since my early childhood, tales of Sudanese refugees and the missionary work that had been carried out in this region by Mill Hill.
On the 13th of September, when I finally set foot in Juba, it was a moment filled with hope and curiosity. The city is going through transformation, and the changes were visible as new buildings emerged on the skyline. What struck me the most was the sense of security that allowed me to explore the city even at night, witnessing many people going about their lives, their resilience shining through despite the challenges of the past.
The recent visit of the Pope to South Sudan left an indelible mark on the city, evident in the numerous symbols and reminders of his presence scattered across the streets. The pride and reverence that the people held for the Pope’s visit were palpable, and the unexpected appointment of the archbishop of Juba as a Cardinal had added another layer of significance to the nation’s religious landscape.
However, beneath the surface of this hopeful transformation, the scars of war were still evident. South Sudan continues to receive an influx of refugees from Sudan, straining its already limited resources and services. It was a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges that the nation faced in its quest for stability and prosperity.
One issue that weighed heavily on my mind was the tribal divisions within the Christian community. It was disheartening to observe that most church masses were dominated by a single tribe, which, on the one hand, could be seen as a celebration of culture but, on the other hand, raised concerns about exclusion. It challenged the very essence of being a welcoming church family. Our Missionaries saw their presence as a role to preach and witness through their team living the radical gospel of love and communion, bridging the divides and fostering unity.
Despite the challenges and complexities that Juba presented, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to visit our dedicated members in South Sudan. Witnessing the impact of the missionary work carried out by our members like Emmanuel Omollo, Linus Kang, and Canise Ibemsi was truly inspiring. Their presence radiated hope and exemplified what it meant to be a Witness in a place that had endured so much.
In the end, my visit to Juba was a profound experience that revealed both the resilience of its people and the challenges they faced. It left me with a renewed hope that the glimpses of hope and renewal I witnessed would eventually permeate the entirety of South Sudan.
Philip Adede MHM