“People are dying as we speak”
Church deplores humanitarian disaster in South Sudan – tribal conflicts are displacing thousands of people
Religious leaders of South Sudan have turned to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need with a dramatic appeal for help. Catholic, Protestant and Islamic leaders claimed in their appeal that the people of the Mundri region who had fled heavy fighting were now forced to live in devastating conditions. Thousands of human lives were under threat. “As we speak people are already dying, and in particular children and elderly people.
During the past two months more than 80 000 people had been forced to live in the bush and the jungle in the area. Children and women are those most affected. They will be exposed to a variety of epidemics and to starvation if they don’t get help soon,” the religious leaders explained after a visit to the crisis zone. They called for an immediate cessation of all military operations in the Mundri region so that the internal refugees could receive humanitarian supplies.
Father David KulandaiSamy of the Community of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (MMI), who is working in the region affected, also called on Aid to the Church in Needto provide help. “Our parish people who have moved into bushes are facing untold misery; particularly children suffer without food, water and medical assistance. Community people’s standing crops have been destroyed and their assets were looted, including cattle,” said the priest, whose Community has served the people of the area since 2012 through pastoral and humanitarian work. He himself only just managed to escape the fighting there at the risk of his life. “With the Grace of God we had a narrow escape from gunfire and we thank God for having survivedtill today,” Father David said.
The background to the situation is the tribal conflict in the region which broke out in September this year. According to Father David, nine warriors of the Dinka tribe had been killed in September. Government troops had then moved into the area and opened fire on members of the Moru tribe. Moru warriors in turn had attacked members of the Dinka tribe. As a result of the ethnic unrest numerous Catholic families had been forced to flee from their homes. They had found refuge in church facilities. But these had also soon been drawn into the conflict by the intervention of the army. Father David said that combat helicopters had been deployed. Many people had been killed and thousands had fled into the bush.
Father David has now called on Aid to the Church in Need to pray for the people. “We would return as soon as the situation gets back to normal and work towards rebuilding the scattered Catholic families and other tribal communities. We would request you to pray for us and our community people, who are undergoing incalculable misery and hardship.”
Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the Church in Sudan and South Sudan for many decades. In 2014 the pastoral charity supported projects in both countries to the tune of almost one million euros. In addition to its pastoral work,Aid to the Church in Need also provides emergency aid to assist the local Church in its work with refugees and others people affected by war.
The Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in northeastern Africa that gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city.
South Sudan is bordered by the Republic of the Sudan to the north, Ethiopia to the east, Kenya to the southeast, Uganda to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest, and the Central African Republic to the west. It includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd, formed by the White Nile and known locally as the Bahr al Jabal.
South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, following a referendum that passed with 98.83% of the vote. It is a United Nations member state, a member state of the African Union, and a member state of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. In July 2012, South Sudan signed the Geneva Conventions. South Sudan has suffered internal conflict since its independence; it has the highest score on the Fragile States Index (formerly the Failed States index).