An annual service of thanksgiving for the past year turned for Dinkas from South Sudan in Melbourne into a national day of mourning and anxiety on New Year's Day.

More than 200 adults and 70 children gathered at the Anglican Church of the Apostles, Sunshine, for a regular thanksgiving service. But because most of those present come from the vicinity of Bor in South Sudan which has seen armed conflict this past week, the prayers reflected the anxiety and concern about relatives back home.

Prayers for ‘peace in South Sudan and wellbeing of all civilians’ were led by the Rev. Abraham Angau. Prayers for the future were led by the Rev. Daniel Gai Aleu.

The town of Bor, in rebel hands last week, was recaptured on December 30 by the President’s army forces. But international news services overnight carried news that the rebels have recaptured it. Members of the congregation at Sunshine already knew about relatives who had been killed or injured.

Eight clergy and lay leaders from Melbourne, each on individual visits for Christmas back to their families in South Sudan, have been tracked to safety either in Juba, capital of South Sudan, or to Kampala or on the way home. Two of them narrowly escaped death or injury when rebels attacked their home villages where they were visiting friends and family.

At the Sunshine church service, the preacher, Archdeacon Alan Nichols, said that the Bible’s promise of God bringing peace to the world was in everyone’s hands to work for peace and reconciliation, both in their homeland and in Australia.

The Anglican Church in Melbourne has 17 congregations worshipping in the Dinka language, scattered from Sunshine to Dandenong. The Australian Government has this week sent two aircraft to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Sudan.


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