Life Amid War: Peace Comes in the Form of South Sudan’s Churches

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JUBA, South Sudan — “If we die, we die with these people.”

JUBA, South Sudan — “If we die, we die with these people.”

 

Amid the screams and constant crackle of gunfire outside the Don Bosco compound in Gumbo, South Sudan, the priests, religious and lay staff made their decision: They would stay with the 20,000 people who had sought refuge behind their gates to the very end.

Father Shyjan Job and his fellow Salesian priests said their last prayers and prepared themselves to meet God. All that stood between them and death by the machete’s swing or the AK-47’s spray of bullets on the evening of July 10 was the chain-link fence and an iron gate encircling their church, their school and adjacent buildings.

“It was a real moment of grace,” said Father Job, recalling the decision of the council they held that night as terror approached amid the encroaching darkness.

The priest, who has spent 10 years in South Sudan, had just returned from a visit to the United States days before fighting broke out between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and the opposition, led by Vice President Riek Machar.

The battle that shattered the cease-fire of South Sudan’s civil war began in Juba on the morning of July 7. Opposition forces later retreated east, across the White Nile, pursued by government soldiers. Before them, a host of civilians fled the city for their lives, desperate to escape the butchery, rape and wanton destruction that characterized the worst of the civil war. Read more on the national catholic register

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