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South Sudan's bishops cry out for aid, protection for civilians
"Millions of our people are affected."
By Esther Gaitan-Fuertes
NEW YORK—The “people live in fear.” That was the thrust of an urgent pastoral appeal issued by South Sudan’s seven bishops, who charged both government troops and the armed opposition with using force against civilians as part of an ongoing civil war in the country.
The prelates wrote: “Some towns have become ‘ghost towns’, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe. Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces.”
The bishops insisted that the humanitarian crisis that grips South Sudan is mostly due to insecurity and poor economic management: “Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighbouring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.”
The bishops have called on Caritas South Sudan and its international partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan; they also called on the international to intervene.
The Church leaders, expressing concern that “some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church,” affirmed that the Church does not take sides in the conflict. The wrote: “We are FOR all good things - peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil - violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression.”
The bishops expressed their readiness to meet with any party “who we believe has the power to change our country for the better.”
The bishops called on Catholics in South Sudan to “work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge.” They also asked for prayers that Pope Francis’ intention to visit the nation later this year will become a reality.
Displaced children in South Sudan; ACN photo