This article was originally published on January 2014 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“Tribal conflict was cultivated and encouraged for decades …”
"I'm hiding on the floor with my family."
"We didn't sleep much last night with all the bullets and artillery…."
"Two hours ago [Monday, December 16th] a military truck with soldiers came to my neighbor's house, pulled him out and shot him dead. He is still laying out there and no one can go out to get the body [because all were afraid to show their faces in public]."
These were the chilling comments ITMI's Director Steve Evers heard over a long distant phone, in broken South Sudanese English on that fateful Monday morning.
In our August 2013 ITMI Monthly we shared with you that ITMI partner and local pastor in Juba, South Sudan, Jahim Buli, was asking for urgent prayer for his country of South Sudan. The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, a Dinka tribesman, had enough of Vice President Riek Macar's verbal sniping and criticism and relieved him of his position.
This seemingly routine action is not completely understood until you realize that President Kiir is from the largest tribe in South Sudan and ex-Vice President Macar is from the Nuer tribe which is the second largest tribe.
Tribal conflict was cultivated and encouraged for decades by the Islamic Khartoum government that held control and faithfully
persecuted the southern tribes of the old Sudan. In fact, it was one of the Khartoum government's most effective tool for destabilization in the south.
In spite of the general euphoria that has presided over this new and independent country since July 19, 2011, South Sudan has continued to carry this intense tribal cancer that gurgles to the surface in these "kill anything and anyone that is not one of us" conflicts.
Jahim claims that this current "angry and hate filled terror" started in a military base when an unorganized band of rebels tried to break into and commandeer the base's stock pile of guns, ammo and artillery. This sparked the current indiscriminate death march through Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
ITMI's Timothy Keller, now in Kabwe, Zambia, has long said that he was most afraid of this tribal conflict in his beloved South Sudan. As Timothy states, "… for decades the South was at war with the North [Khartoum] Islamic backed government and when that ‘opponent' went away [through the secession], the tribes needed something to war against. I was afraid that this was going to happen."
What Timothy didn't verbalize specifically, but clearly knows to be true is this - if the anger and bitterness in the hearts of the South Sudanese, planted and nurtured by the brutality and atrocities of the Khartoum thugs for decades, is not dealt with correctly, there will never be real peace.
There will always be a need to find a "new" recipient of this anger and bitterness. Only God can take these two very crippling diseases called "anger and bitterness" away, and only when God's men and women are empowered to take this truth to the people.
As Jahim and Gisma, their two baby children and a cousin of Jahim and her baby lay on the floor trying to not be the next victim of the out-of-control and mad tribal vigilante justice that had enveloped the city of Juba, he carefully conserved his dying cell phone's battery.
Jahim doesn't have electricity in his modest home and has to go into town to have his computer and cell phone recharged. His phone this morning was his only human lifeline to any civility and the outside world. He was concerned that soon it would die and he then would be all alone.
Jahim and Gisma's home in South Sudan
With only three days worth of beans, flour and oil, Jahim didn't know how his family was going to survive if this new brutality continued. But he was steadfast in his faith in God to know that somehow God would provide.
Within two days, Jahim was able to mount his trusty motorbike and venture out to find some food and assess the devastation of this conflict. Jahim reported to Steve that "…there were many bodies laying [on the ground] everywhere…no one to pick them up, no one care for them…there was [already] a stink in the air from the bodies."
"It is an empty town, they are all fleeing."
Another day passed and even worse news came to Jahim. One of the chaplains that Jahim trained with the SALT material that ITMI provided, who lives around the city of Bor, which is in another state about 120 miles north of Juba, called Jahim to warn him of serious impending doom.
The report was that the Nuer tribe had captured the town of Bor. They are now amassing all the Nuer tribe members they can in order to launch a "revenge attack" on …Juba.
The conflict is not over! This report is credible enough to cause President Kiir to declare… war. The conflict is not over!
ITMI has partnered with a few special donors and we are getting Jahim and his family out of South Sudan to Uganda. No one wants to be a refugee, especially Jahim who has lived a major portion of his life as a refugee due to decades old North-South Sudan civil war.
However, Jahim can't do ministry in South Sudan and be moment by moment concerned with the welfare of his wife and children. So when Gisma and the children get set up in Kampala in early January 2014, Jahim is planning to return to South Sudan as soon as possible.
CNN reported on 26th December, "Even with additional capabilities, we will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. General Ban continued, "There is no military solution to this conflict."
The latest accounts from the local Juba Medical Teacher Hospital is that over 3000 bodies have been confirmed by their staff. There are reports also of finding rape victims and mass graves.
Why would Jahim return into the mouth of the lions? Doesn't he know that he is not from either of these two ruling tribes and thus at great risk?
Jahim responds this way, "Yesterday [on December 23rd] we baptized a lot of people down in the river. This is the same White
Nile River that on December 21st, Radio Tamazuj, a short-wave radio broadcast into South Sudan, claimed eyewitnesses reported, ‘many bodies floating in the river.’ " Jahim informs us that "many people now want to make right with God."
"They see how easy life is taken away and they know they are not ready to meet eternity."
"They are very afraid."
"We need to disciple the people, and this is why I want to teach the SALT material to all the pastors," Jahim shares.
He further stated, "I will go back. I will take my family to safety and then I will go back. I will do intensive door to door evangelism, I will train pastors, I want to be [in Juba] to help people deal [with all the death and fear], the loosing of family members."
This opportunity is too great for Jahim to care about his personal safety. He wants to be used by God to meet the greatest needs of these people…complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
Steve asked Jahim what he and the family were going to do about Christmas. "… there is no Christmas in all of Juba."
"Everyone has left…we have no open air meetings like in the past…we have no Christmas services…we have no Christmas this year."
ITMI wants to help Jahim. We want to help Jahim care for his wife and children when they are in Kampala, Uganda. Jahim's Uganda pastor friend has graciously offered a small cottage for free for the next 90 days. Jahim is responsible for food and other family needs. He will also need help with ministry back in Juba, as well as travel expenses.
South Sudan needs Jahim and his passion to scatter God's truth to anyone and everyone that will listen. There are many, many that very much want to listen right now.
Jahim delivering SALT material training for South Sudanese pastors and leaders.
Jahim has committed to "carry the heavy load" over there in South Sudan. Maybe God wants us to help "hold his arms up" while he engages the enemy for the hearts and souls of his country men.
If you are so led, know that ITMI will gladly assist you with connecting to Jahim and what God is going to do through him.
We will do our part to help and support Jahim's efforts.
If you know of other friends, family or churches that might have a heart for Jahim and his South Sudan country men, please, please share this unique and special opportunity to impact many lives.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.