Friday, March 31, 2006

Cost of the Civil War

This theme will recur in several of the later entries, so I’ll highlight it here. I hope I have the facts relatively accurate. In a place with no newspapers or “documentation” that I could discern, one must simply rely on the stories one is told. This is one of the sadder ones.

Over the past 50 years, southern Sudan has suffered war of one type or another for 40 years. As I understand it, most of this has been a result of the Arabic and Muslim northern Sudanese attacking the African and animist/Christian southern Sudanese. Or, viewed another way, it’s been the southern Sudanese fighting for self-control against the north.

Finally, in early 2005, a peace agreement (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or “CPA”) was agreed-upon by both parties. As I understand it, it provides a five-year (or is it 6-year?) period during which southern Sudan under the SPLA/M will exist fairly autonomously. At the end of that period, there will be a vote throughout Sudan that will decide whether southern Sudan retains its autonomy or comes back under more direct national control.

Meanwhile, various groups in southern Sudan have been “united against the common enemy,” and many, many people have been displaced, driven from their homes and lands.

People in Lui look up to Father Joseph Phillip, dean of the cathedral in Lui. One of the reasons is that – despite many bombings – he refused to leave his cathedral in Lui. While people were being murdered and their homes destroyed, he remained in Lui to keep the church operating there. And it wasn’t just other people being attacked. When we arrived in Lui, I noticed this one derelict/falling-down building and inquired what it was. And I was informed it wasn’t a “was.” It’s an “is.” It is Father Joseph Phillip’s house. It’s still his house. It’s been bombed and assaulted. But he’s still living there.

One of Rick’s jobs while we were in Lui was to inspect Father Joseph Phillip’s home to determine whether it was even habitable. It had been bombed so often, and had so many crumbling/leaning walls that – at first – I did not even recognize it as a home. I thought it was one of the “destroyed places.” But he is living in it, as he has continued to do all along.

I understand the Bishop experienced similar destruction. If I understood correctly, one of the sites we visited was the place where his home had once stood. I heard various stories about how many times he had endured bombing of his home.

I cannot even fathom the courage it must take to do this. We speak of Christians being “under assault” in the U.S. What a joke! These Lui Christians were bombed, attacked, and beaten. And yet they held their ground.

I noticed that the Cathedral in Lui had this funny roof. It was fashioned of corrugated metal, and looked mostly silver. But it also seemed to have a green paint in some sections. I learned why. During the civil war, the Khartoum government realized that schools and churches had shiny corrugated-metal roofs. So they sent their planes to bomb them. The shiny silver roofs stood out vividly, making them easy targets. Awhile into the war, the diocese realized this, and they painted the roofs green, in hopes they would blend into the surrounding vegetation.

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