On October 20 armed militia stormed five villages in the Twic East region of South Sudan, randomly killing and wounding villagers and stealing cattle.

On October 26, three hundred Dinkas from that part of South Sudan gathered in a Footscray church in Melbourne as an Anglican congregation to mourn, express loss, and wonder why it happened, as the civil war between North and South Sudan had ended two years ago.

Twelve elders spoke, one after another, expressing anxiety about their relatives and friends, and expressing confusion why such things should still be happening.

One elder said: “Why are they doing this? They don’t even know themselves.” Another said: “They are groups who switched sides from South to North Sudan not long before the war finished, and they are stranded. They kill because that’s what they do. They steal cattle to survive.”

Some had lost members of their family, others knew about injuries to brothers and sisters. Everyone present was given a two page list of those killed and injured, village by village – Ayoliel,.Nyiping, Kuac, Abiong and Dacuek. Seventy dead, including women and children; 88 injured.

They said prayers, and sang Dinka hymns. An offering to send to support victims was started by an elder donating $1,000 cash.

Archdeacon Alan Nichols, coordinator of Multicultural Ministry for the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, gave a short homily. He said: “This is God’s world, but bad things still happen. God made us for love, but we also hate. Sometimes we know the cause of conflict, such as the war of Independence between North and South Sudan. Sometimes we don’t know the cause of the conflict – it just happens.

“I know from my experience in Rwanda during and after the 1994 genocide that armed militias do get left behind when peace comes. Rwandan militias still cause trouble on the border 20 years after their war ended.@

Quoting Jeremiah, he said, “What we do know is that God wants all Christians to work for the peace and prosperity of the city where they live. So, while we mourn and support compatriots and relatives affected in South Sudan, we also work here for peace and prosperity.”

Most of the 300 Sudanese present at the gathering had been asylum seekers in Kenya, where they were assessed as refugees by UNHCR and then chosen to come to Australia in the period before the civil war was over in Sudan. They worship in Anglican churches in Melbourne in 17 different congregations from Sunshine to Footscray to Dandenong.