Civil war has been a near-constant scourge for the people of Sudan in eastern Africa for many years. Mary Abuk Dau was still a child, living on her family’s farm in the country’s south, when bloody conflict flared up there in 1991. She walked for years in search of safety. Having been educated through Lutheran support in a Kenyan refugee camp, she’s since been an ambassador for peace. Jonathan Krause, Community Action Manager with Australian Lutheran World Service, met Mary in South Sudan and shares her story.
Mary Abuk Dau knew the horrors of war from a young age. People were killed in front of her when she was just 10. Growing up in what is now South Sudan, with civil war sweeping the country, Mary believes God saved her life. Thanks to help from Lutheran aid partnerships, she now has hope for the future – despite her country again being in crisis today.
‘The soldiers came and killed some people while I was looking’, Mary says of the civil war that came to her region in 1991. ‘Some of my relatives were killed. My uncle died. It is only to God that we are saved.’
Her elder siblings left Sudan for Ethiopia, while Mary stayed with the young children of her family. When the conflict became worse, they too set out on foot, with no shoes or clothes to protect them from the terrain and elements. People died of disease and hunger.
Even in some refugee camps along their journey, Mary and her companions were not safe to settle. ‘We were on foot for four years’, she says. ‘We may stay in a camp for one month, but then the attacks would come again, so we would move again. There was no food for us to survive, and we did not know where the water [was]. If a child got tired they must be left behind, and they die[d]. If a person die[d] we could not bury them because we did not have the time or strength.
‘But even though we had nothing, we knew God was there.’
They reached Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya in 1995. It was there Mary learnt about Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a partner of Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS).
ALWS has launched an emergency appeal to support the work of LWF in South Sudan.
You can donate by visiting alws.org.au or phoning FREECALL 1300 763 407.
It has also launched Walk My Way, a campaign to fund schooling for refugee children, including those from South Sudan. To be held on 4 July 2017, the 26 kilometre walk will go from Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills to Beaumont in the South Australian capital’s eastern suburbs, following in steps of Lutheran pioneer women.