Ma’a salaama: Sudan between hope and fear
Together Sudan and the South Sudan form a very large region in the eastern part of the African continent. District Apostle Klingler from Hanover in Germany cared for the 6,000 New Apostolic Sudanese Christians for twenty years. The administrative and pastoral care of the members in Sudan will now be assigned to the District Church of East Africa.
October 25th, 2015 is the official date of the handover. District Apostle Wilfried Klingler will be celebrating his last service in South Sudan on that day. District Apostle Joseph O. Ekhuya from Nairobi in Kenya will be there as well. He will assume the care of the members in Sudan and South Sudan on 1 January 2016. “That ends a twenty-year period of responsibility poised between hope and fear. There were many conflicts in the heart of Africa in this time. It was a time in which fear, hardship, displacement, and death were the order of the day for the Sudanese people.”
How everything began
It all goes back to March 1995. District Apostle Klingler was in India at the time with the Chief Apostle. While on a bus, Chief Apostle Richard Fehr asked the District Apostle whether he could not also start to work in Sudan. He agreed and started to work there in the middle of the civil war under difficult and sometimes threatening circumstances. Conflicts were constantly flaring up between government troops in the north and the rebels in the south of Sudan. The Apostles from Canada who had until then been working in the country had been forced to end their work because they were no longer being issued entry permits to Sudan.
South Sudan declared its independence in July 2011. Great hopes were associated with this. Innumerable prayers for peace and a decent life for the people had been part of the ministers’ work in the country ever since the work had begun there. Finally, after three decades of unrest and war, a peace treaty was signed. The effects were amazing. Many brothers and sisters, District Apostle Klingler recalls, moved back home, into the south of the country. The Church was able to start a systematic build-up effort. Church districts were established and building programmes developed. Within a few weeks the New Apostolic Church was officially recognized by the state. In the national capital of Juba a piece of land was made available to the New Apostolic Church, on which it built a large church with a seating capacity for 400, offices, accommodation for the ministers travelling in the region, and a guest house.
In 2012 the country received its first local Apostle. Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber ordained Morris Gilbert Ukuni, who had been Bishop for many years, as an Apostle. Apostle Ukuni looks after eleven congregations and 42 ministers.
The situation today
Peace in the new Republic of South Sudan did not last long. Conflicts flared up in the capital of Juba in 2012, spreading north and developing into ethnic violence there. Thousands have been killed or displaced since. Many villages no longer exist. They were destroyed. Our brothers and sisters and our congregations are also affected. “Although the situation in the national capital of Juba is fairly quiet,” the District Apostle says, “the humanitarian situation in the rest of South Sudan is catastrophic. If there is any food at all, say vegetables or fruit, then at prices that most people cannot afford. The only way to get gasoline is through connections and after days of waiting in line at petrol stations. This makes travelling nearly impossible.”
In Sudan, however, life is peaceful. “It is very difficult for the brothers and sisters to gather for divine services, however. The Muslim government does not exactly promote Christianity,” the District Apostle writes. He ends his report with ma’a salaama (Arabic “goodbye”) and says, “Saying goodbye to the brothers and sisters there was not easy. I have left part of my heart there. My daily prayers are with the brothers and sisters I have shared joy and sorrow with. Their worries have become mine.”