New Bible Society for the world’s newest country

Some South Sudan church leaders with UBS staff and the head of the new Bible Society, Dr Edward Kajivora (far right)

South Sudan, which split from Sudan to become the world’s newest country last July, now has its own Bible Society. The Bible Society in South Sudan was officially registered on January 24 and is already working hard to serve the Scripture needs of a country facing enormous challenges.

This month, for instance, together with American Bible Society it led a workshop to equip church leaders and others for trauma counselling – a much-needed ministry in a country wracked by two decades of civil war.

Violent conflict is far from being a thing of the past in South Sudan: there is unrest on its borders and violent clashes between ethnic groups are escalating, leaving thousands dead and many more homeless.

Yet to experience peace

“Our new nation has yet to experience peace – both from outside and and inside our borders,” comments Bible Society Executive Secretary Dr Edward Kajivora. “The internal conflict is not new – tribes have always fought over cattle, which are highly prized in our society.

Carts carrying water tanks in Juba, the country's capital city.

“But the 21-year civil war has placed firearms in the hands of many South Sudanese people and the fighting has become more deadly and harder for the government to get under control. The worst clashes are between the Lou-Nuer and the Murle, who are killing and maiming each other,  stealing cattle, abducting women and children and burning whole villages to the ground.

“This cycle of violence will only get worse unless drastic measures are taken. The Christian Council of Churches is doing its best to bring reconciliation, talking to both sides and trying to stop the attacks. Everyone in South Sudan is concerned and special prayer meetings are being held in churches.

Visiting the wounded

“As a Bible Society we are visiting the wounded who are brought to the hospital in Juba. We pray and talk together and try to comfort them. They always smile and thank us. One man told us that although he’d heard about Jesus at church, it was only during this difficult time that he had really come to know him.

“We asked him if he had read the Bible but he said that he could not read. This is not surprising: the illiteracy rate here is more than 80 per cent. The years of war have deprived a whole generation of education. Today, the youth of our country are roaming the streets aimlessly and are easily enticed into crime. They need guidance, support and opportunities.”

Working in trying circumstances

David Hammond, who co-ordinates UBS’s work in Africa, says, “The Bible Society in South Sudan is working in trying circumstances, based in a bomb-damaged warehouse with no electricity or internet connection. It needs proper office facilities, a steady supply of Scriptures, solar panels and a vehicle among many other things.

“Please pray that these things can be put in place so that we can move ahead with our dreams to develop Bible work in this fledgling country.”