The Exodus story of Sudan, by Zaoro Hyacinthe Loua SJ

For many young people Sudan has become a synonym for war because of its horrible conflicts. Millions of people have died, are struggling to survive, are displaced or in exile all over the world. Under the direction of the Jesuit Refugee Service, Sudanese refugees in Nairobi come together once a month to pray and share news. As a Guinean Jesuit from the West African Province, my pastoral experience was to spend three years with the Nairobi Sudanese Christian community as a simple servant desiring to learn and to help. During this time a priest from Southern Sudan invited me to visit his diocese of Yei. Before the war, Yei was a big prosperous town with many ethnic groups, both Christian and Muslim. Today the bombardments of the Sudanese government have reduced it to a big village with a few mango and eucalyptus trees. What characterises the people of Yei is their ?exodus story?, not to the Promised Land but into exile. Everyone I met in Yei narrates this story with pain and joy. Its main protagonist is Fr. Peter Dada (now Vicar General of that Diocese), who led his people out of Yei in 1990, following the directives of the Sudan People?s Liberation Army (SPLA), which wanted to attack the government army base there. A convoy of more than a hundred vehicles, together with thousands of people on foot, travelled under SPLA guidance, by night, fearful of government artillery attack, to a small border town near Uganda. Three years later, under threat again, they moved into camps inside Uganda. Fr. Dada stayed ten years before leading his community back to Yei. The experience of the ?wilderness journey,? of God?s presence as a pillar of fire, has consolidated this people in faith and as a community. The Church of Yei lives Paul?s words literally: ?To this very moment we go hungry and thirsty, we are clothed in rags; we are beaten, we wander from place to place; we wear ourselves out with hard work. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are insulted, we answer with kind words. We are no more than this world?s refuse; we are the scum of the earth to this very moment!? (1Cor 4:11-13). [HL20703]