Bishop hopes peace talks will bring South Sudanese refugees home
THE “GREATEST GIFT” that could come from the long-awaited meetings between the president of South Sudan and the country’s rebel leader would be a lasting peace so huge numbers of refugees can at last leave Sudan and go home—so says a bishop who cares for the uprooted people.
Amid reports that four million people have been displaced by the conflict in South Sudan, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum spelled out the privations of refugees who are desperate for food, shelter and medicine.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Adwok described providing pastoral care in the Kosti region of neighboring Sudan, where up to 200,000 South Sudanese are living spread out across nine refugee camps.
He said that the refugees in Sudan and other neighboring countries were closely following events this week in Khartoum, Sudan, where South Sudan President Salva Kiir is meeting rebel leader Riek Machar in a bid to bring lasting peace to the fledgling African nation. Last week, in Addis, Ethiopia, another meeting failed to achieve a breakthrough.
When relations between Mr Kiir and Mr Riek broke down in late 2013, violence erupted in South Sudan, claiming at least 50,000 lives to-date, with four million displaced and famine declared in several regions. The talks last week in Addis were the first time the men had met in two years.
Speaking just as the peace talks got underway, Bishop Adwok said: “The people in the refugee camps need to go back and rebuild their broken homes.
“They look at the meeting taking place in Karthoum and they say that the greatest gift that could come from all this would be the gift of peace.
“This peace would allow them to go back to their homes and live in a dignified way, not as they do in the camps where there are so many difficulties.”
The bishop said the refugees he helps support in the White Nile region of Kosti, south of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, lack plastic sheeting for shelter; he also reported that food supplies are rationed resulting in malnutrition for many people. He said: “The food they have in these camps is not enough. Some of them get only one meal a day.”
The bishop added that some refugees were able to support themselves after being given permission from the Sudanese government to work in the fields.
He said humanitarian support for the camps in his area was coming from the government of Sudan, which, however, was continuing to stop international aid agencies accessing the refugees in the country.
The bishop called for attention to the plight of up to 16,000 people who have come to the camps within the last few years and who he said “are not properly settled and especially need help.”
Bishop Adwok thanked Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for helping the three Sisters and two priests who regularly carry out pastoral work in the camps where there are numerous Christians of many denominations. The charity also provides Christian education programs, training in ethics and some emergency help for those most in need, including food items. In 2017 ACN supported projects in Sudan and South Sudan with a total of more than $1.6M