Church in South Sudan mobilizing for refugees from Sudan
By Lisa Zengarini
As fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues in Sudan, with no concrete signs of peace on the horizon, the Church in neighbouring South Sudan is mobilizing to welcome the tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing the violence.
In a letter addressed to all the religious communities in his archdiocese, including Mill Hill missionaries, the White Fathers and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba, invited them to open their houses “to the brothers and sisters who are in Sudan” seeking refuge in South Sudan.
Critical situation in the State of the Upper Nile
Many of them are concentrated in the bordering State of the Upper Nile, already facing a difficult humanitarian situation due to the high number of internally displaced persons caused by the civil war South Sudan is still recovering from.
The Fides agency reported that during a meeting Archbishop Martin held with religious leaders last week, Bishop Stephen Nyodho of Malakal, the capital of the Upper Nile, lamented the slow response by the South Sudanese authorities to the new humanitarian crisis in the northern State.
900,000 refugees and IDPs
According to the Government of Juba, who claims to have sent a dozen trucks to transport its citizens trapped in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, over 50,000 people fleeing the war have arrived in South Sudan so far.
Egypt and Chad have also received flows of refugees from the North-eastern African nation, 70,000 and 30,000 respectively. Thousands more have made their way to Ethiopia, and, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 700,00 are internally displaced.
The violent armed struggle between the SAF, loyal to the de facto president General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, led by his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo erupted on April 15 after months of heightened tensions between the two former allies who led the coup against the transitional government in October 2021.
Fighting has continued despite several ceasefires, the last of which was supposed to begin on May 4.
In the latest round of talks in Jeddah mediated by Saudi Arabia and United States the two warring factions were only able to sign an agreement on May 11 to protect civilians and humanitarian deliveries from violence but could not agree on a ceasefire.
So far the clashes have killed at least 750 people and left over 5,500 injured, as well as causing the destruction of several properties and infrastructure.
Church in Sudan affected by the fighting
The fighting has also heavily affected the small Christian community in the Muslim nation, where various Catholic facilities and churches have been bombed, including the Catholic Cathedral of El-Obeid which was hit by a rocket on April 20. Many religious and clergy from various congregations have been forced to flee the capital.
Christians injured on Sunday in Khartoum
The latest incident involving Christians occurred on Sunday 14 May when some faithful were reportedly injured during a shooting outside a church in the outskirts of the Khartoum. The military and paramilitary forces have blamed each other for the attack.
Meanwhile, officials of Caritas in Eastern Africa, have also urged humanitarian agencies to extend their support to people seeking refuge in Sudan’s neighbouring countries.
Caritas in Eastern Africa urges humanitarian agencies to increase support
In a message issued last week as they met in Rome for their 10th regional assembly, the Caritas officials of the AMECEA region appealed to all Caritas Member Organizations operating in Easter Africa, Caritas Internationalis, UN Organizations, and other NGOs to urgently step up on humanitarian aid and rescue the people affected by the crisis inside the country and those who have fled to neighbouring countries.
They said that the destruction of healthcare services in the North-eastern African country is making the provision of life-saving support extremely difficult and very costly. “We, therefore, would like to urge the warring parties to immediately cease the fighting and seek peaceful means to resolve the problem,” the Caritas Presidents said.