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Giving Peace A Sporting Chance

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, but it is already in big trouble. In December 2013, political and ethnic differences erupted into widespread fighting and loss of life. Since then, around 1.6 million people have fled the country and now live in refugee camps.

900,000 of these refugees have crossed the border into Uganda, where you will find two of the largest refugee camps in the world: Bidibidi Camp and Rhino Camp.  Typically, families are given a plot to build a local house, usually a tarpaulin over long sticks or a mudwalled hut with a thatched roof. They can grow a few vegetables, but rainfall is mostly poor and large areas are rocky so they are dependent on grains and beans supplied by the UN once a month. Many South Sudanese refugees have seen loved ones killed, such that physical and emotional trauma are widespread.

Pioneers missionaries Rhys and Rhondda Hall have been serving in South Sudan for over 25 years, and they too have had to leave their home in South Sudan and cross into Uganda. Being away from their usual ministry, they are now placing their energy into a sports program for Sudanese youth. The ‘Sports for Peace’ project, an initiative of Across ministries under the guidance of 30 church groups of various denominations, is drawing South Sudanese youth of different tribes together, and bringing unity.    
So how do you run a sports program in a refugee camp?

Although it is early days, the impact of the sports project is already showing. Prayer and scripture reading begin each training activity. Community participation is high with 500 to 1500 spectators at events.  The host Ugandan community have been left out of other projects, often breeding resentment. But in the sports project, they are participating and being drawn together with the refugee community. Sports leaders interviewed in one camp reported there was greater engagement of youth, less idle time, and signs of a reduction in criminal activity.
Pray that the Sports for Peace ministry continues to grow, and transform lives.

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