By ACI Africa Staff
Khartoum, 24 May, 2023 / (ACI Africa). Published with permission.
Three members of the Religious Order of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SHS) have expressed gratitude to the Vulnerable People Project (VPP), a Catholic apostolate dedicated to helping people escape conflict, for facilitating their safe evacuation from Sudan to South Sudan amid violence in the Northeastern African nation.
On May 21, the Founder and President of the U.S.-based VPP, Jason Jones, and his team facilitated the evacuation of Sr. Lucy Tiyu, Sr. Rose Ajija, and Sr. Pierina Achito, all from the SHS community of Umbadah Omdurman in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, alongside 800 others who were trapped in the Sudan war that broke out on April 15, to South Sudan.
In a video message shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, May 24, Sr. Lucy expresses gratitude to God for their safe evacuation and requests VPP to continue the operation of rescuing other vulnerable persons trapped in the Sudan war.
“I want to thank God and to thank Jason with his friends who have come to our rescue,” one of the three SHS members, Sr. Lucy, says in the 57-second video recording.
She adds, “We did not know whether we could be alive up till today but we are grateful to God and grateful to VPP who rescued us to reach up to Juba.”
“We shall never forget you in our lives,” Sr. Lucy further says in reference to VPP leadership, and continues, “We shall pray for you so that you may continue doing the same job of rescuing the people from the situation where they are.”
In a note to ACI Africa, the Superior General of the South Sudanese-founded Congregation declined to provide details of the current location of Lucy, Sr. Rose, and Sr. Pierina.
“Details will follow when they are physically united with their community in Juba,” Sr. Alice Jurugo Drajea said in the Wednesday, May 24 note, adding that the three SHS members “are recovering in the hands of the rescuers.”
In a May 23 interview with ACI Prensa, ACI Africa’s Spanish-language news partner, VPP President gave further details about the three SHS members, saying, “By the grace of God, they are now out of the country, in South Sudan, and will soon return to their mother house after receiving checkups and exams at a hospital.”
“Almost 800 people were rescued that day, including the sisters. Unfortunately, during the extraction, a volunteer from a collaborating organization was killed by sniper fire,” Mr. Jones added.
He said that the three Catholic Nuns were in an area where there was intense shooting and that the situation “was very terrifying” after being trapped.
“An American who often helps the (SHS members) contacted my organization and asked if we could evacuate them, as we have been working with partners in Sudan for 20 years,” Mr. Jones told ACI Prensa in reference to Chris Merli.
The VPP President immediately agreed and with his team put together an evacuation plan, considering that two of the SHS members were sick. “One didn’t have her diabetes medicine, so she was very weak, and another was fighting malaria,” he recounted.
“They were old, frail, and the idea of a long journey, which ultimately took 72 hours from start to finish, was terrifying. So, our team came and was with them for several days trying to comfort them. We brought them food, money, [and] insulin. But then the building next door to where they were was knocked down by artillery fire, and I think this convinced them that they had to go with our team,” Mr. Jones further recounted.
He added that despite the fact that “it was a great challenge for them, the sisters were very brave and strong, because they were caught between armies accused of heinous crimes and genocide.”
“Despite their old age, their frailty, their illness, the terrifying situation, they were strong enough to be evacuated to a safe place,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the three SHS members were praying the whole time.
“The sisters continually prayed for us, for the members of our team, because there are many more people to be rescued. As soon as they were evacuated, their first concern was that we wouldn’t quit,” he recounted.
The VPP Founder explained that his job as a Catholic organization for the defense of human rights “is to support the most vulnerable people in the world” and “to be there at the moment of the cross.”
“When the world turns dark, then the mystical body of Christ has to be there and make it a priority,” he said during the May 23 interview, and added, “We are radically committed to caring for Catholics in Sudan, without forgetting what is happening to Catholics in Nigeria.”
Launched in 2022, the VPP initiative is animated by the Catholic Social Teaching to respond to humanitarian crises around the world.
Since April 15, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary force under General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has been in battle with army units of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) that are loyal to the head of Sudan’s transitional governing Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led the coup against the transitional government in October 2021.
A short-term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangement between representatives of SAF and RSF, which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. brokered went into effect on May 22.
Though the ceasefire appeared to have brought some respite from heavy fighting, artillery fire could be heard in parts of Khartoum and warplanes flew overhead, Reuters reported May 24.
SOURCE ACI Africa. Published with permission.