South Sudan: prayer for peace in a young nation still torn apart by violence

One of the four Spiritan fathers who serve in Mampio was attacked two weeks ago on his way back to the mission from Rumbek. In their visit to ACN’s international headquarters in Königstein (Germany), Fr. John Mbinda CSSP – provincial superior of the Spiritans for Kenya and South Sudan – and his assistant, Fr. Patrick Mwania CSSP, described how insecurity and violence are affecting the people in South Sudan, “You don’t know when this kind of thing will happen, it can happen any time.”  One of the fathers and few sisters, who belong to another congregation that works together with the Spiritan, were assaulted and robbed. This is not the first time that these kinds of attacks happen.

“Last year the same father was shot while driving and the car to drive on a flat tyre for a long time”, told Father Mbinda. In September 2015 the missionary priest was in a Church vehicle driving back from Rumbek together with two other missionaries and a few other passengers when suddenly three young men appeared from the roadside’s high grass holding guns. The armed men opened fire against the mission car and hit a priest who was sitting just near the back door. The car continued its course – driving on a flat tire – till reaching the mission. Car ambushes and roadside robberies have already happened a number of times in South Sudan, according to Father Mbinda.

This is the third year that the Spiritans have been serving in South Sudan. They received a request from the bishop to go where there are no priests, to evangelise the marginalised people. When asked if their brothers would leave due to the increasingly dangerous situation in South Sudan, Father Mbinda replied: “They need to be present with the people…They want to stay, the people need them – specially now in difficult times.”

More than a million people have fled their homes in South Sudan since fighting broke out in December 2013 which led to a civil war between forces of the government and opposition forces. As a result of this war, many priests and refugees fled from the dioceses of Yei, Rumbek and Wau. Over 2,300 refugees have fled from Tombura–Yambio and Malakal dioceses. Many churches have been targeted thus leaving several priests and sisters displaced.

There were already incidents and violence in some parts of the country last year, but in the last two weeks fighting has intensified in the capital Juba.  Last July 10 South Sudan celebrated its 5th Anniversary of Independence under bombing and fighting. The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) is inviting people of good will to pray for peace in the Republic of South Sudan on 16th July. ACN is joining the South Sudanese people in their prayer for peace, will you join us?

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