South Sudan Update

Since the launch of the appeal last month, a total of €14,449 has been raised in Connor Diocese with a further £4,000 pledged.

This has enabled CMSI to provide funding for food, cooking equipment, blankets and medicines for internally displaced people who have sought the shelter of the church as civil unrest continues in the world’s newest state.

Connor Diocese has had a formal partnership with the Diocese of Yei, South Sudan, since 2007. The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, and a team was due to visit Yei in January, but the trip was postponed due to the unrest.Since December 15, it is estimated some 10,000 people have died in the conflict and 800,000 have been forced to leave their homes.  A ceasefire was signed by rebel and government forces on January 23, but there have since been violations reported on both sides.

Speaking to CMSI Partnership co–ordinator Jenny Smyth by telephone on Tuesday February 11, Bishop Hilary of Yei said that things were calmer and some people were returning to the town. He said that life felt more normal and the tense sense of fear had reduced.  The Bishop said this is not the case in places north of the capital Juba where the majority of fighting has taken place. 

Jenny said that news from the border with Ethiopia suggested many people are still trying to cross and tension is high. There are many refugees are in Uganda too. “Many of these refugees are in a desperate situation, arriving with nothing and having lost contact with family members,” Jenny said.

Bishop Grant of Gambella region in Ethiopia has said that a new camp has opened, with busloads of refugees arriving daily. “I have been told by officials that the camp will house 17,000. However, recent conversations with WFP staff and others seem to imply that this estimate is far too low,” Bishop Grant told CMSI.

CMSB mission partner couple, David and Heather Sharland, wrote from Arua, NW Uganda. “There are many refugees flooding into West Nile. All the old camps are opened again. The big UN agencies are doing the big stuff, food, supplies etc. Some of the Christians missions around Arua are trying to do something, the Baptists are renovating a Health Centre in Rhino Camp. YWAM are trying to build some shelters for reception.”

Jenny said CMSI will continue to monitor the situation. “Families in Maridi and Ibba have received food and survival supplies, in Yei the displaced people are still sheltering in the UN compound, and we are in the process of sending funds to Kajo Keji diocese to support families who have taken displaced people into their homes. 

Bishop Anthony Poggo of Kajo Keji has written of an influx of families from Juba who have come to join their relatives in Kajo–Keji. “Food shortages have been experienced in the market coupled with the sky rocketing of prices of food. The displaced family members from Juba are mainly women and children who are the vulnerable groups,” the Bishop wrote.  He said this has impacted on schools on health services which were overwhelmed, and he anticipates the crisis will worsen as more people flee to KajoKeji.

After food was distributed to displaced families in Ibba, thanks to funds donated through CMSI, Benedict Samson, a representative of the internally displaced people, expressed a sincere thanks to those friends who extended the financial support to enable people like himself to have food. 
“What we experienced in Juba was terrible. We thank God because we are safe and now we have food to eat with our children, continue to pray for us and the people in Juba. We shall go back to Juba when peace is prevailed,” Benedict said.

Jenny Smyth said she was hoping to visit South Sudan in March to get a better understanding of what is happening on the ground, to encourage people in their efforts to speak for peace, and to see how CMSI, together with parishes around Ireland, can most effectively support the church in its present situation, looking to move forward from such ‘devastating circumstances.’