24 October 2017, The Tablet

Violence, war, destruction: It is 'not easy' being a Catholic in South Sudan

Violence, war, destruction: It is 'not easy' being a Catholic in South Sudan

It is not easy being a Catholic in the world's newest country, according to the UK's Bishop William Kenney.

Murder, rape and the destruction of property and crops are just some of the traumas endured by Christians and others through the civil war that followed largely-Christian and animist South Sudan gaining independence from largely-Muslim Sudan in 2011.

Bishop Kenney, visiting South Sudan with CAFOD, called on all Catholics to pray for their brothers and sisters in a country still traumatised by war and famine.

They are "a Church that is small and regarded at times suspiciously by the authorities," he said.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9th July 2011, ending Africa's longest-running civil war. However, gaining independence did not end conflict in South Sudan as the subsequent civil war that began in 2013 has displaced at least 2.2 million people. It is still the newest country in the world and is Africa's first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993.

Bishop Kenney, hosted by the South Sudanese Bishops’ Conference, said while in South Sudan that it was, ‘not easy to be a Catholic here. I have told the Bishops and the people that they are not forgotten by the people of our Diocese and the people of England and Wales and we will pray for them as they are praying for us.’

He continued: "Our sisters and brothers in South Sudan have been traumatised by war - that implies killings, destruction of crops and property and rape."

Speaking out to mark World Mission Sunday, when collections were taken for the missionary work of the church worldwide, he also praised the work of CAFOD throughout the region, and said that despite its own struggles, the South Sudanese Church is looking beyond itself.

Bishop Kenney, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, has responsibility for the work of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan.

Pic: Bishop William Kenney in South Sudan. Pic credit: CCBEW

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