Sudan and South Sudan fought a drawn-out civil war before separating in 2011. However, almost all South Sudanese still have relatives living in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which has been rocked by a violent conflict between military factions representing different political groups.The Catholic Church in South Sudan is preparing to host refugees from the conflict.
At least 500 people have died, and thousands have fled to other countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Chad, and South Sudan.
The bishop of Wau in South Sudan has written to the faithful of his diocese, asking that they prepare to welcome refugees. “The bishop asked us to help our brothers from Khartoum,” Sister Beta Almendra told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “He addressed the request to all of us: priests, religious, and laypeople. The message is one of solidarity with Khartoum and its people.”
“We have organized three special collections at Masses. All the lay faithful are being asked to contribute. We will gather the money and send it to Khartoum in the first week of June, so that we can offer real assistance to the people who stayed behind, or those who must get out,” said a Portuguese Comboni missionary who has been living in South Sudan for several years.
Predominantly Muslim Sudan and Christian South Sudan used to form one country, but it split in 2011 after decades of civil war. But the countries and their populations still have a great deal in common. “When we say that South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, it is because it only became independent in 2011. But the people are the same as before, and they all have relatives in Khartoum. We are constantly asking them how they are, if they have managed to leave the country, and whether they can they make it to South Sudan,” Sister Beta explained.
As is the case in most wars, the poor have disproportionately suffered, as they do not have the means to secure their safety. “Anybody who had money or some savings managed to get out by car or airplane. All the rest had to leave on foot, and it can take months for them to reach safe places like Wau, where we are expecting them and are ready to welcome them.” Besides, the danger of the conflict in Sudan, and the physical challenge of a long journey, there are other risks for refugees. “Many of those on the road are being robbed. Most of them already had to leave everything behind, but even what little they did manage to bring is stolen from them. It is a very difficult journey, and they are leaving a country with many, many problems,” the missionary told ACN.
An estimated 50,000 people have already crossed the border between the two countries, but not many have yet arrived in Wau. “We don’t have refugee camps yet, because people are mostly coming by foot and moving slowly, but they will surely begin to arrive [soon],” said Sister Beta Almendra.
May 25, 2023, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED. Published with permission.