The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia, on the frontier with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region where there is widespread poverty. Many of the children there are visibly malnourished, and there are recurrent and intermittent intertribal conflicts, above all between the more settled, farming tribes and the nomadic herders. The cattle eat the farmers‘ crops, and the farmers are taking away the traditional grazing lands of the herders. In this conflict over scarce resources there are frequent and violent clashes. Moreover, in recent times there have also been clashes between the local population and refugees of the Nuer tribespeople from South Sudan. Currently, in fact, according to the UNHCR, there are over 330,000 refugees from South Sudan in the area – almost as many people again as the existing population of Gambella state. In early 2016, in particular, there was violent unrest here, with numerous deaths. The Catholic Church is working strenuously for peace and reconciliation and is the only force in this region – a potential powder keg – that is capable of combating the violence, hatred and rising anger.
There are many people in this region who have still never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many of them are open to the faith, well disposed to the activity of the Church and eager to receive baptism. But the region is remote and the villages widely scattered. There are too few priests, and so the catechists play a vital role, both in preparing people for baptism and in promoting the process of peace and reconciliation.
On Sundays these catechists often have to travel many hours on foot to reach the villages where there is no priest to celebrate Holy Mass, in order to pray with them and instruct them in the Catholic Faith. ACN has promised 7,500 Euros to equip some 30 of these catechists with a bicycle each, so as to save their time and energies and enable them to better carry out their vital and precious service. In this way, they can reach more villages and devote themselves still more intensively to the work of evangelisation.