It seems as if the forces of the universe realized things were getting a bit heavy and decided to shoot a little bit of good news my way. Conditions seem to be stabilizing enough in the Darfur region of Sudan for refugees to begin returning home. François Reybet-Degat, the current head of the United Nations refugee office in Sudan, says that more than 100,000 people have returned home to several different areas in Darfur. Abdallah Mohamed Abubakir, a farmer, just brought his family back to Nyuru, a village in the area. “Things aren’t great,” he said, “but they’re getting better.” His village now has a new 6 room school – grass-walled though it may be – and a police station. An Islamic charity has built the village a large tent hospital as well. In the background of these humble advances are smashed houses and piles of ash – the not-too-subtle reminders that many people were killed here.
Aid agencies seeking to encourage this recent trend are changing their approach. By shifting the focus from emergency relief and increasing funding for “recovery” they hope to encourage more people to return home. The “recovery” effort supplies the people returning home with wells, seeds, plows, and workshops to make plows. The goal is to prevent refugee camps from becoming permanent slums by enticing villagers to return home to improved conditions.
While the return of some 100,000+ villagers to their homes is most certainly a good sign, it should be seen as a sign to press on not to call it day. Prayers, aid, and advocacy have finally yielded results in an area that has been subject to terrible violence for 9 years. The exact same thing is now happening in Nuba region of Sudan. Hopefully, the world will acknowledge the atrocities being done here faster than they acknowledged the violence in Darfur. There is hope that the Nuban people will not have to suffer as long as the Darfuri’s did.
There is an American Christian, Ryan Boyette, who is risking his life daily to document the crimes being committed against the Nuban people. He is the man who smuggled reporter Nicholas D. Kristof across the border from South Sudan into Sudan, so that world could see what was happening. Boyette is launching a citizen reporting initiative in March called Eyes and Ears Nuba. Pray for the continued safety of Boyette and his family. He is being targeted by the government of Sudan with bombs and spies.
The change in Darfur is a sign that peace can be achieved and hope is there for people in war-torn areas – it should be very encouraging. By praying and spreading the word about things like what is going on in the Nuba mountains we are able to give hope and affect change in the lives of some the most vulnerable and helpless people in the world. It took people too long to see what was happening in Darfur, and in that time hundreds of lives were lost.