UNHCR staff assist refugees arriving at the Doro camp in South Sudan

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS - Robert Stansfield/Department for International Development

South Sudan Religious Leaders Cry Out for Help: 'People Are Dying as We Speak'

Catholic, Protestant, Muslim leaders join in appeal

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This report is contribued by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Need.

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Religious leaders of South Sudan have made an urgent appeal for help from the international community. The fledgling nation’s Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders spoke out on behalf of their people in Mundri region, who, fleeing heavy fighting, are now forced to live in devastating conditions. Thousands of human lives are at risk, the leaders said in a letter sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“As we speak people are already dying, and in particular children and elderly people. During the past two months more than 80,000 people have been forced to live in the bush and the jungle. 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,” said the leaders, who called for an immediate cessation of all military operations in the Mundri region so that humanitarian supplies can be brought in.

Local missionary Father David Kulandai Samy, MMI, reported: “Our 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, who himself only just managed to avoid getting shot. “With the grace of God we had a narrow escape from gunfire and we thank God for having survived,” he said.

The violence in the region is linked to a tribal conflict that broke out last September, against the backdrop of the country’s ongoing civil war. Nine fighters belonging to the Dinka tribe where killed by government troops—themselves belonging to the Nuer tribe—who also attacked members of the Moru tribe, who in turn attacked Dinka. Residents fleeing the outburst of violence briefly found refuge in Church facilities, but these too came under fire from government combat helicopters, which sparked a massive exodus to the bush. According to Father Samy, many people have been killed. 

In a message to the West, the missionary said: “We would return as soon as the situation gets back to normal and work towards rebuilding the lives of the scattered Catholic families and other tribal communities. We would request you to pray for us and our community, which is undergoing incalculable misery and hardship.”

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

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