82 more dead in South Sudan violence

By May 11, 2011

Sudan (MNN) — Fighting on Sunday and Monday of this week in South Sudan resulted in the deaths of 82 people.

In the last few days, a group of rebel militia led by Philip Bepan, who works under the army general turned rebel Peter Gadet, attacked troops from the rebel political group of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Unity state. SPLA, according to news network al Jazeera, adamantly believes Gadet's troops are being assisted by the North, from which South Sudan recently voted for secession. Thus once attacked, SPLA proceeded to vehemently chase Gadet's troops into the state of Warrap.

Warrap is populated by "well-armed but impoverished cattle herders, who kept their AK-47s from decades of civil war," reported the Associated Press. On Sunday in Warrap, the same rebel troops that were defeated by SPLA attacked a cattle camp, attempted to loot it. They killed 34 people and wounded 45 civilians in the process.

The armed cattle herders struck back by ambushing the militiamen. They killed 48 of them. By Monday, the fighting was over, leaving 82 bodies in its wake.

Violence like this has been characteristic of South Sudan for the past several weeks. Despite a shockingly peaceful vote for secession from the North, various attacks have ensued since, which are only expected to heat up as the region gets closer and closer to its official birthdate: July 9. Already hundreds of people have been killed in the clashes.

Many remain skeptical that South Sudan will be able to sustain itself as a country. In a recent publication of Africa Inland Mission, Heartbeat Africa, journalist Tim Brown noted that in order to survive, "the new country will need to find a way to peacefully disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate ex-combatants."

Throughout decades of civil war and now more violence, however, the church has remained a stronghold of the South. The church played a major role in ending the civil war and in spearheading efforts to place Sudan on the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the 1990's. The majority of Southern Sudanese are Christians, anddespite denominational divides, Brown says they mostly tend toward an evangelical faith.

The church is under fire, though. AIM reports that when many church leaders fled Sudan as refugees or became administrators within the southern government, the pastors who had been left behind were mostly untrained. Brown calls the church in Sudan "fragile."

After pulling its missionaries from Sudan during the January referendum, AIM has since allowed its workers to return. Now church planting will be vital, as well as increased missionary presence, to sustain the church.

"My crying need is for some experienced missionaries to serve as team leaders," says Phil Byler, leader of AIM's team in South Sudan. He expects that the upcoming break between North and South Sudan will actually open the country to further missionary efforts and freedoms, and he is praising God for that.

If you are interested in learning more about mission work in Sudan, visit aimint.org.

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