South Sudan (MNN) — Violence continues in South Sudan despite ongoing peace talks taking place in Ethiopia. Talks, ongoing since January 3, seem to have stalled out. Matt Parker with Kids Alive International has been watching the situation with a vested interest. The ministry has a number of programs operating in Wau, a town roughly 400 miles northwest of Juba, the capital city. Parker says, “So far, there has been very little progress made. The conflict is now a month old, this week. More than a thousand people have been killed, probably a lot more than that. 200,000 have been displaced.” A key sticking point is holding up all progress even as rebels continue their advance, driving more people to flee their homes to escape the deadly clashes. Parker explains, “One of the conditions that the rebel group has tried to impose is that they want the release of 11 prisoners who have been arrested by the South Sudanese government.” The government gave no quarter, even as the fighting sparked fears of a civil war in the fledgling nation. As time goes by, the pressure increases because “It’s a highly unpredictable, volatile situation and still very much a risk that the violence could continue to spread to other areas of the country”, he says.
Since 2011, Kids Alive has had a presence in South Sudan. They launched a home in Wau for street children, mostly boys. Because there have been a couple isolated incidents between different tribes in town, Parker warns, “There is an uneasy calm, but there’s a real risk that one incident could really spark a widespread conflict.” Staff report feeling the tension, but they’re moving forward, he adds. “Despite the violence, we are still in the process of moving these children to a new children’s home that we just finished constructing. We are excited to see the opening of the new home. So despite the situation in the country, Kids Alive is very much committed to continuing its work.” The expansion of the children’s home means “we hope to double the number of street children that we’re working with in the next couple of years. We’re also doing some work in the community, working with children, providing an education for kids that would otherwise not have the opportunity to go to school.” Without Kids Alive’s help, the future of a street child is bleak. Roughly 29% of kids get to go to primary school. The rest often turn to the streets to survive. Tragically, many of these children are dying from preventable diseases, suffering abuse and persecution, becoming addicted to drugs and other substances, or getting involved in gangs, with no hope of having a better life.
Kids Alive’s focus is on the entire child. Just like Jesus, they are concerned about the empty stomachs of children as much as their empty hearts, explains Parker. “Bible teaching is a key part of our program. We’re excited to see these kids that have come from the streets that have come, not knowing the name of Jesus. It’s amazing to see the transformation in these children’s lives.” Through their community programs, “We want to see these families come to know Jesus. We want to see them connected to a local church, so our staff takes every opportunity to share the Good News.” With such a great need in this area, there are plans to grow this critical ministry as soon as they are able. “Pray for our work in Wau. It’s a tough situation, a tough area to work in. Pray for our staff, that they would be able to keep their eyes on Christ in every situation. Pray for our kids that despite the turmoil that’s taking place in South Sudan, that they would know the peace of God.”