SUDAN – Finding the strength to forgive

Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy can help refugees find the strength to forgive, says a Sudanese bishop. During the Holy Year Christians are invited to focus on the merciful God and encouraged to reflect on their faith. Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum said the Holy Father’s Jubilee of Mercy could help those worst affected by the ongoing civil war in South Sudan find peace through forgiveness.

Bishop Adwok said: “Many of [the refugees] are wounded people, many of them are traumatised people but we want them to live as human beings not as people who can easily advocate revenge or take up arms to fight. I think it is a very great call by the Holy Father and I am sure that people will respond.”

The conflict in South Sudan forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes in the 12 months that followed the outbreak of the war in 2011. Entire communities fled to neighbouring Sudan to find a place of refuge in one of the country’s government-controlled refugee camps.

Though the camps offer a safer alternative to the violence in the south, Bishop Adwok maintained that life is difficult for the refugees:“Certainly there is no harassment of the Christians staying there but the fact that they are not considered Sudanese means they do not have any rights. They do not have anything. You can lose your citizenship at any time.”

Bishop Adwok joined his other bishops from Sudan and South Sudan in Rome last month, during which they were received by Pope Francis and invited to discuss the situation within their dioceses. During the meeting, the Pope stressed the importance of the formation of catechists as many Christians were dispersed throughout the country following the secession of South Sudan.

Bishop Adwok said: “Even now there are still parishes and centres that are empty. They don’t have catechists.This was among the list of things [Pope Francis] wanted us to make sure the bishops of Sudan and south Sudan understand.”

In an effort to reach the growing number of Christian refugees, four lay ‘missionaries of mercy’ chosen from each camp, have been given special authority by the Pope to administer, to catechise and spread the message of mercy.

Bishop Adwok said the idea was a wonderful way to reach Christians who have been affected by the civil war. He said: “Just to tell them you forgive – maybe they will hear it. It might pass, but I think if we anchor it on their faith, faith in Christ our Lord who came to be our Saviour and say now he is inviting us to show His mercy and compassion to our brothers and sisters who might have done wrong to us – I think it is a great gift.”

Under the new Save the Saveable School Programme in the Archdiocese of Khartoum, ACN has helped the children left vulnerable by the conflict. The charity provided three parish-based schools in the suburbs of Khartoum with financial aid to support the teachers and pay the fees of the children who otherwise could not afford an education.

Bishop Adwok thanked ACN for the help they had provided in both Sudan and South Sudan and asked benefactors to continue to pray for peace. “Prayer keeps us united and knowledgeable for peace and every other person’s situation and conditions. I think the immediate thing that can really bring us closer in a given day is that we all look up and call on the Lord for assistance.”


Clare Creegan

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