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This is the fourth in a six part series of testimonies of refugees to raise awareness after Pope Francis’s visit to Kenya and Uganda at the end of November.

I was born in 1975 in Jonglei State, South Sudan. One night in 1987 my home town was blasted by the Khartoum army. I fled toward Ethiopia but found myself trapped by soldiers, forced to become one of them. I fought as a child soldier until 1994, but I eventually saw that war would not achieve my dreams so I escaped to Kakuma refugee camp where I could attend school.

In 1997, I was shot near the camp and eventually became bound to my wheelchair. I suffered for many years until a Good Samaritan paid for my treatment. In 2008 I started a new life and was able to study for a Diploma in Theology, and another in Psychology. In 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity.

Recently, war broke out in my country again because of poor leadership. It has destroyed the country and the victims are children, women and the disabled. Living my life as a disabled person is not easy, but keeping God ahead of me opens the way for me and the rest of my disabled brothers and sisters to keep hoping.

When we achieved independence in 2011 we thought our country would focus on health, education and peace. We never thought we’d go back to war after fighting for almost 50 years. What was the need for all that fighting to become a nation? It is not for us to kill ourselves so that an elite few can take advantage of our resources, but to develop the entire population.

For my own sake, I am waiting for this war to end so I can finally go home. I have been in Kenya for 20 years and I don’t have citizenship, I will never be able to work here.

Though I am stressed, I never feel alone because I rely on my God, on my belief. In difficult moments I return to the Bible which gives me comfort and solace.

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve watched how you struggle now all over the world and I see you are a person of the people. You have no segregation and you value all human beings regardless of their belief or gender. You have compassion for all humanity. I watched you on TV during your visit in Philadelphia and saw you embraced a person with a disability on the road. You stopped and prayed for those people.

I believe this person and his family have now been relieved from their pain. A man of God has touched him. You have the heart of humanity.

I just would like to ask you if there is a way for those with disabilities to be more recognised in our world? Can we be given room to speak? We have ideas and we can contribute to this world but often we are stigmatised. I know Jesus was really compassionate to people with disabilities – he healed them, he loved them. Today I wonder if the Church has the same compassion. Please encourage more space for the disabled to take on positions of power in this world.

Refugees also need to be welcomed. There are a number of us who’ve come from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, even Uganda to seek asylum in Kenya. The government is trying its best to accommodate people, but those countries who’ve produced refugees are not thinking about their brothers and sisters in exile.

Please talk to these governments to stop these conflicts and make their countries peaceful. In South Sudan, people are being killed for no reason. We need the international community to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement. Kenya has accommodated hundreds of thousands of people and has a heart for them, but we are limited here. Education is not very accessible and we cannot do business. If we can go home we can do something for ourselves, live securely and succeed.

In solidarity,

Daniel Y. Deng, South Sudanese, peace activist, disability advocate, refugee

Read the original report on the Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa website.