By Joshua Maule
Monica Biel is praying for peace – in her own heart and for her homeland. Last week when Eternity spoke to the Anglicare Settlement Grants Project worker from western Sydney, she had been trying to reach her husband, Gabriel Yol who lives in the newly formed nation. “I tried to get to him,” Monica, 51, said, “to ask some questions. But the telephone is not going through.” By Monday (Jan 16) Monica was relieved to report he was safe.
Her 71-year-old husband is a leader of the Lou Nuer community and a member of parliament, living in Juba. In recent weeks casualties mounted when the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes took up weapons against each other. That led Gabriel, along with the Sudanese Archibishop, to attempt to organise peace talks between the two groups which have a long history of hostility.
In 2003 Christian friends of Monica’s had donated money to bring Gabriel to Australia. But on his way to the embassy to leave, he was captured by police and placed in detention for three months. Since then he hasn’t attempted to leave. “I was looking for him to come here like me,” says Monica who arrived in Australia as a refugee. “He has become old and he needs his family to take care of him.”
South Sudan erupted in jubilation when it gained independence in July last year. But the positive start is threatened. In September when she was visiting, Monica found her husband had set up their home as a refuge for injured people. “Why is this happening now?” she says. “I’m shocked – I don’t know.”
When she considers gangs stealing cattle, ransacking villages, and killing, she says, “They don’t fear God. They don’t have God’s mercy. There’s no God protection there because they are far away from God … God looks for the heart.”
She and other members of the South Sudanese community in western Sydney have been praying for their homeland. Without a church building of their own, they have been gathering in a garage in Fairfield. “We pray for wisdom and leadership. We pray for God to give wisdom and knowledge and understanding to our leaders and forgive our tribes and people. We pray also for him to bring peace beyond understanding, because his peace – no one can break it.
“If God says today there will be peace, there will be.”