UGANDA – The photo preceding this article was taken at the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in northwest Uganda. He is breaking rocks into pebbles which he will attempt to sell for a penny in hopes to provide for his family. Bidi Bidi became the world’s largest refugee settlement about a year ago. Prior to August 2016, the 96 square mile area was home to a small village. Nearly 300,000 refugee families and children are now tent city residents.
Most of the inhabitants are refugees of the conflict in South Sudan. South Sudanese refugees currently represent the fastest-growing group of refugees in the world, outpacing the number leaving Syria. (Keep in mind that as more people become refugees, the fewer potential refuges exist within a given region. The number of Syrian refugees has plateaued at just over five million.) Bidi Bidi is home to nearly 20 percent of the 1.6 million South Sudanese refugees.
We first became aware of the Bidi Bidi refugee camp from e3 Partners in Plano. The faith-based NGO arranges mission trips that engage the Church evangelism and humanitarian aid, making the Hope of the World accessible to everyone, everywhere. They send Christians to the pioneering edge of the mission field to spread hope among the unreached, and leave behind vibrant, transforming local churches that do the same. “It’s the gospel gone viral through God’s people.”
The vision of e3 Partners is both short and long-term. By visiting refugee camps like Bidi Bidi, not only are they able to minister to immediate needs and share the Gospel, but to train those who believe so when they return home, they, too, will share the Good News with others, thus spreading the Gospel in an ever-wider area.
Recently, e3 shared the story of Joy, a woman in the Bidi Bidi camp. She had been shot in an attack on her family’s home in South Sudan. She was pregnant at the time. Her baby did not survive. She also lost her husband, her daughter, her brother, her sister, her brother-in-law and her 8-year-old niece in the attack.
During her escape to Uganda, she heard a man preaching the Gospel. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior immediately. Now she is helping to spread the Word throughout the camp.
Pray for the refugees at Bidi Bidi. Their needs are many. The camp has recently become the subject of a scandal in which United Nations financial aid has allegedly been diverted by officials within the distribution channels, leaving the refugees with limited food and other supplies. Remember that refugee camps are not necessarily safe havens, especially for women and children who are thrust into densely-populated tent cities where their safety can be at risk as much as or more than it was at home.
- Business Insider, Satellite images show how the tiny Ugandan village of Bidi Bidi became the world’s largest refugee camp
- The Guardian, Inside the world’s largest refugee camp: ‘We just want to go home’
- American Refugee Committee, Welcome to Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement
- NPR, As Thousands Flee South Sudan, Ugandan Refugee Camp Becomes World’s Largest
- Wikipedia, Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement
- Mission Network News, e3 takes trips to Uganda’s largest refugee camp
- By Tibaweswa Stuart [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons