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The Church is the ‘only functioning institution’ in South Sudan

Monday, March 13, 2017 15:57
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Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2017 / 04:46 pm ( target="_blank" href="/r2/?url=" target="_blank">CNA/EWTN
).- Amid war and famine in South Sudan, the Catholic Church
is still serving the most vulnerable even as the government has

The Church is the “only functioning institution in civil society,”
Neil Corkery, president of the ""
target="_blank">Sudan Relief Fund
, told CNA in an interview,
and “is really the only thing that’s left trying to help people”
who live “in the remotest parts of the country.”

Famine was recently declared in parts of South Sudan, where there
has been an ongoing civil war, interrupted by tenuous peace, since
December 2013.

42 percent of the population, an estimated 4.5 million people, are
facing “severe food insecurity,” Corkery said, and that number is
expected to rise to half the country’s population – or 5.5 million
– by July.

There have been 2.5 million refugees created by the conflict, he
added. A confidential UN report warned that the conflict had
reached “catastrophic proportions for civilians,” the South China
Morning Post reported last month.

“This crisis is man-made, the direct consequence of a conflict
prolonged by South Sudanese leaders who are unwilling to put aside
political ambitions for the good of their people,” State Department
acting spokesperson Mark C. Toner stated on February 21.

“We call on President Kiir to expeditiously make good on his
promise that humanitarian and developmental organizations will have
unimpeded access to populations in need across the country,” Toner

Recently, President Salva Kiir called for a day of prayer for the
country ahead of a national dialogue. The auxiliary bishop of Juba,
however, ""
target="_blank">dismissed it as a “political prayer” and “a
mockery” amid violence inflicted by government troops

Because of the conflict and the “scorched earth” policies of
government troops, many have been “unable to plant their crops,”
Corkery said.

At a parish in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, in the southwestern
portion of the country and an area that is “very fertile” and was
once a bread basket for the country, “these people are now in
hiding, or taking refuge in the parish compound, and unable to
plant crops,” he said. “Things are obviously just getting much

“It is a real crisis that’s coming down the pike,” Corkery

The country’s bishops have spoken out against the violence there,
accusing soldiers of committing war crimes and saying that the
violence has interrupted the harvesting of crops.

“Despite our calls to all parties, factions, and individuals to
STOP THE WAR, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement,
attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all across
the country,” the bishops of South Sudan ""
target="_blank">stated in a Feb. 23 pastoral message

“Much of the violence,” they added, “is being perpetrated by
government and opposition forces against civilians,” especially
those of ethnicities deemed to be in alliance with rebel factions.
And those victims “are prevented from harvesting their crops,” the
bishops added.

Some members of the government have frustrated local peace deals
brokered by the Church, the bishops said, and churches, priests,
and nuns have been attacked.  

The U.S. has sent “$2 billion since 2014 in humanitarian aid
alone,” Corkery said, but the United Nations humanitarian workers
only operate in “certain pockets” of the country.

Amid this crisis and growing famine, Catholic priests, nuns, and
missionaries have been laboring to bring food and supplies to
remote areas and are “reaching these people who are truly destitute
and starving.”

It is not an easy task. Aside from the ongoing conflict where
soldiers could seize food and supplies if they were aware they were
being transported, the country’s logistical infrastructure is so
poor there are no paved roads outside the capital city of Juba,
Corkery noted. During the country’s rainy season, this problem is

“The real heroes that I see there,” Corkery said, are the
“missionaries toiling away on the front lines.”

“These people are looking at the long-term solution in terms of the
eternal scheme of things, people’s souls.”

Several aid workers with Samaritan’s Purse were detained or
kidnapped by opposition fighters near Mayendit March 13.

South Sudan announced earlier this month it plans to charge $10,000
per visa for foreign aid workers.

“The government and the army have largely contributed to the
humanitarian situation. And now, they want to create profit from
the crisis they have created,” Elizabeth Deng, South Sudan
researcher with Amnesty International, said in reaction to the

Despite the heroic efforts of missionaries, the Sudan Relief Fund,
and other aid groups like Aid to the Church In Need and Samaritan’s
Purse, a long-term peace is the only lasting solution to the
country’s problems, Corkery insisted.

Prayer is the most important thing Catholics in the U.S. can do to
help the situation, he said, as peace can only come about through
“prayer and grace working in the hearts and the minds of these
warring tribes and factions.”

However, citizens can also ask members of Congress to “push the
U.S. government to put more pressure” on South Sudanese leaders.
The U.S. has already begun listing “top leaders as war criminals”
there, he said.

Pope Francis has spoken about the crisis in the country and has
expressed his desire to visit there. No details of the trip have
yet been released, Corkery said.

“The Pope and the Church,” he said, “are the only people that have
the ability to convene, bring the parties together” for a peaceful
solution. Pope Francis will try to “refocus the international
community on the gravity of this crisis that’s there” and “convene
the warring parties to try to bring them to the table to get some

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