02 May 2023, The Tablet

Sudanese Churches plea for an end to fighting

Sudanese Churches plea for an end to fighting

U.S. soldiers escort American nationals to a U.S. Navy ship in Port Sudan, Sunday, April 30, 2023.
AP Photo/Smowal Abdalla

The people of Sudan are suffering and yearning for peace, according to Catholic Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mula of Juba Archdiocese in South Sudan.

“In order to preserve the unity of the country, and not further the suffering of the people, we call for an end to the fighting and a return to dialogue,” he said in a statement from the Catholic Conference of Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan.

A concern for churches follows reports that a rocket struck the Catholic cathedral in the diocese of El Obeid. The blast destroyed the front gate of the cathedral last week and shattered windows, as well as demolishing the priests’ house.

Armed men also targeted the Anglican Cathedral in Khartoum on 17 April and used guns to break into cars, reported Sudanese Anglican church officials. No one was hurt in either incident.

Since 15 April, fighting between the Sudanese government and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has gripped the country, triggering fears of a humanitarian crisis. The violence since then has killed at least 528 people and wounded 4,599, the health ministry said last Saturday, but those figures are likely to be an underestimate.

Church sources in Sudan report shortages of water and food.  There is no running water in Khartoum and the electricity network is broken.  This is not an ideological or religious conflict and all citizens from Muslim and minority Christian communities are equally affected. Lay people, priests and religious are unable to leave their houses. Masses in churches have been stopped, although communal prayers continue in some houses.

Besides the capital, there are also confrontations in Merowe, El Obeid and in the Darfur region. And waves of refugees from the cities are growing.  Approximately 75,000 have been displaced by the fighting in Khartoum and the states of Blue Nile, North Kordofan, as well as the western region of Darfur, according to the UN.

People are trapped in their homes, unable to leave to buy food, and fear a “public health catastrophe” as bodies amass in the streets of Khartoum, said speakers at a vigil for Sudan at Bradford Cathedral on 25 April.

They also reported that the Anglican Archbishop of Sudan, Ezekiel Kondo, walked for two hours with members of his community to escape Khartoum, after his cathedral was raided by the Rapid Support Forces.

They asked for prayers, particularly for those lacking food and those “dying in hospitals because there is no electricity and no treatments”. No emergency services are operating in Sudan and 60 per cent of hospitals are closed.

Christian Aid has warned that clashes are spreading into regions bordering South Sudan – South Darfur and Blue Nile, raising fears “of a return to all-out-war in a country with a history of armed conflict”.

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