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Praying with refugees in South Sudan
Thursday, April 09, 2015

A young boy at the nursery school which Jesuit Refugee Service runs in the host community in Maban, South Sudan. (Angela Wells — Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Yambio, South Sudan) April 9, 2015 – For more than three decades South Sudan has been engulfed in a sequence of wars. Generations have been born in exile and refugee camps. Those who survived did so in extremely harsh conditions. Yet as an uneasy peace comes to parts of South Sudan, violence breeding hatred continues in the east and northeast. Nobody should face such injustice. 

For 10 years, Jesuit Refugee Service has walked alongside displaced South Sudanese people in their journey of suffering, agony and despair. We have tried to instill in them a sense of hope and resilience for better days to come. JRS provides spiritual and socioeconomic support to help refugees make it through their current struggles and prepare for their futures.

I have witnessed the suffering of many displaced persons throughout South Sudan and northern Uganda. They face countless hardships, integrating in their new communities and in gaining access to education, health, housing and other fundamental services. But deep in their hearts, they trust God will never forsake them.

The refugees' special gift of faith in God gives them the courage to persevere. Their faith humbles me; it helps me accept the challenges I face in my life and to see that nothing is forever. Everything changes. This belief is founded on belief in God. I have seen refugees return home and settle back in to a normal life after years of living in exile in camps. It demonstrates how life as a refugee can be a transitory, as opposed to permanent, condition.

Reflections for Prayer

God never fails those who put trust in him. Prayer is how God keeps us in constant contact with Him. It is through this kind of communication that we convey our needs and desires to God as much as we praise Him. This reminds me of my experience of sharing space and time with refugees, seeing how they find solace in prayer as they communicate to God. Prayer is an honest and trusted personal conversation, modeled on the pillar of hope, rather than despair; faith in God is an anchor for refugees and displaced persons.

People of faith ask for justice. In situations like South Sudan, where fighting and mass killings have been habitual practices, praying to God for help can console both young and old generations alike. Prayer can spawn a change of heart, for those affected by and involved in conflict, encouraging forgiveness and reconciliation.

by Aidan Azairwe
Jesuit Refugee Service Yambio Director

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Isaiah, chapter 58:2

They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God.

Matthew, chapter 7:7-12

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.