‘A huge crowd… with only each other and what they were wearing’

Monday September 30th 2019

CMSI Mission partner Billy Smyth is currently in South Sudan, supporting staff at the Yei Vocational Training Centre. He also visited Maridi Diocese.

An attack on a village in Connor’s link diocese of Yei, South Sudan, has brought a huge influx of people into Yei town.

CMS Ireland reports that on September 21, Bishop Hilary of Yei made an announcement at Immanuel Cathedral in Yei, appealing for any available clothes to be brought to the cathedral.

The announcement was made to a congregation made up of people who have been displaced from their villages, others who have recently returned from refugee camps in Uganda and folks who have weathered the three-year storm of violence and food insecurity in Yei. And still, they were asked to give out of what they had. 

Bishop Hilary’s request followed the sudden influx of people injured, hungry and bewildered from an attack on their village. The bishop told CMSI: “We have received hundreds of displaced people of Logo Village, 10-11 miles along Mardi Road.

“There has been heavy fighting in the middle of that community, which forced them to flee to the church compound of the Diocese of Yei. This is the fourth time we have hosted such large numbers of displaced persons from the communities of the same location.” 

Bishop Hilary said the people chose to run to the cathedral for help because they trust the Church.  

CMSI Mission Partner Billy Smyth is currently in Yei, having travelled from Belfast to South Sudan on September 16 with Bishop Moses, Mama Rejoice and the Rev Patti Johnson (all of whom were heading for Maridi Diocese).

Billy, who is in South Sudan for two weeks, working at Yei Vocational Training College and also spending some time in Maridi, gave his reaction to meeting some of the newly displaced people in Yei.

“I have been with Bishop Hilary to visit the recently displaced people who are now at the cathedral area. I don’t know what to say… old men, women and children with nowhere to call home. The village chief was there standing with his people,” Billy said.

“The crowd is waiting for their names to be called out to receive a UN food voucher….

“A few days ago these were ordinary people living in an ordinary African village. Now their village is no more. All their personal belongings, their chickens and goats are gone. Their tukals have been burnt to the ground, the children are looking bewildered.

“When we visited refugee camps, people were singing and rejoicing to welcome us. There was no singing this morning, no rejoicing for our visit, just a huge crowd of people, with only each other and what they were wearing.”

Linda Abwa of CMSI said that a recent update from Billy indicated that the Church is working closely with the UN agencies and that food has now been made available for the displaced people.

“CMSI sent emergency funds as soon as we heard of the new influx people. Those funds have arrived with Bishop Hilary and will enable the Church to provide more of what is needed for the people who have chosen the cathedral as their place of refuge,” Linda said.

“Please pray for Bishop Hilary and the people of Immanuel Cathedral that this church at the centre of crisis will truly be a place of refuge.”

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