A note of thanks from Fr. Louis in South Sudan Edited for clarity and length
I recently returned from visiting some communities. It might be difficult to visit these communities later when the rainy season beings, although this year the rain has actually been delayed. The farmers are already complaining for the delay of the rain. Traditionally, people cast seeds on the prepared land before it starts to rain, but the rains did not arrive in early April as expected. The first rain, which started in some places, has soaked the seeds and they are surely rotten already because the burning sun. So they will have to sow a new one. This has made some people, whom I listened to, pessimistic of having good harvest this year because it is almost getting late.
The conflict in South Sudan, which started in December 2013 and then re-ignited July 2016, has spread like a wildfire to other parts of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and yet many more are internally displaced. Others have crossed the borders (to Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Central Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia) for refuge. There are areas which are completely abandoned by the civilians due to insecurity (Loa just few hours’ drive from Juba, Pajok, Kajo-Keji all bordering Uganda, some villages of Yei bordering Uganda and DRC and most villages of Malakal region bordering Sudan and Ethiopia, etc). As usual, the civilians are victims of both parts.
We have nine communities in the province of which four (Wau, Lomin – Kajokeji, Leer and partly Old Fangak) are very much affected by this conflict. Our mission in Kaja-keji, since February 2017, is completely empty. The mission was looted in March. The only people who are there are the government soldiers, some civil servants, and on the other side the opposition group. The civilians have taken refuge between Morobo and Moyo towns in northern Uganda. Our four confreres Fr. Jesus Aranda, Fr. Isaac Martin, Bro. Peter Fafa, and Bro. Erich Fishnela are now trying to settle near the refugee camps to continue to offer their services to the population.
In Wau, people are more internally displaced. They took refuge in most of the parish compounds. For instance the entire compound of the secretariat of the diocese has turned into a refuge place – every space is used by the people even in front of the rooms of the priest, the refectory, diocesan radio station offices and the pastoral offices. It is a stressful and depressing situation. Moreover, thousands of civilians have also taken refuge in the UNMISS compound. In the recent clashes civilians were just killed near UNMISS gate as they tried to run to the compound for refuge.
Our confreres from the Leer mission have been displaced since 2014. They are doing their missionary service from one of the chapels. And the major risk is that the area is controlled by the opposition group. They receive threats many times from the government which plans to attack and retake the area. In spite of these threats, the confreres continue to carry their pastoral activities as if nothing is going to happen. They are resilient both to the threats posed by the government and by the rebels; and of course by the human made hunger.
The other community affected is the out-station of Old Fagak parish. It is part of Mogok where Fr. Mike Barton and La Braca Antonio were working. This community is dispersed, having been displaced twice. The government attacked Mogok while Fr. Barton had gone for Ash Wednesday to some chapels and the only one who was in the community was La Braca. At the moment they are in two different locations where they cannot meet each other. We expect to receive Barton this coming Thursday (in late April) meanwhile La Braca is still hiding with the people in another village.
This is the situation of our country. This does not include so much the areas where we are not working. They have their own stories to tell.
Where your donations are being used
All these people (refugees and displaced) who are under our pastoral care need food, shelter, education, water and medicines. We also offer them workshops justice and peace; and specifically on trauma healing (counseling), and reconciliation. We will have more updates later for all the provinces and people that have generously supported us to attend the needs of our affected suffering people. Your solidarity with us is a living gospel by itself. Even if you are very far from us but we feel that through your prayers, advocacy and material help you are close to us.