“May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, touch the hearts of leaders, commanders and politicians to make responsible choices in favor of the suffering people and the good of this new nation.” This is the prayer of Salesian missionaries serving in South Sudan -- where escalating violence threatens to plunge the country into civil war.
On Dec. 15, 2013, a brutal and bloody conflict -- spurred by a political power struggle that split down ethnic lines -- erupted in the capital city of Juba. The conflict has since enveloped the areas surrounding the city, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled for their lives.
As of Jan. 9, close to 600,000 men, women and children have abandoned their homes and villages in search of safety. Many are living among the trees and bushes -- often going for a week or more without food -- in fear of the murderous mobs. Dead bodies litter the streets. Men, increasingly ensnared in the fighting, are being separated from their families -- leaving women and children vulnerable and traumatized.
Caught unsuspecting and inadequately prepared to deal with the crisis, the Salesian missionaries are nevertheless working to offer shelter, protection and humanitarian aid to as many people as possible.
For example, missionaries in Gumbo, situated 8 kilometers from Juba, have established a makeshift camp in their center. More than 400 people from the areas of Mogri, Mangala, Bor and Bentuk walked for up to 8 days to seek refuge here. Some sustained bullet wounds during the journey while others arrived significantly ill. Salesian missionaries are providing medical care and emotional support to victims to help ensure their health and well-being.
In situations where villagers are too afraid or physically unable to flee, the missionaries are going to them when possible. In Mogri, for example,they regularly travel three hours by car to distribute food, water and other aid to families hiding in the forests.
“They [the villagers] only come out when they see the Mission car,” says a Salesian involved in the efforts. “And, we are challenged to offer health care to this population due to the ongoing threat of physical harm.”
In a few rare circumstances, Salesian missionaries have even arranged to transfer displaced persons to United Nations camps, or into neighboring countries, to ensure their safety.
Meanwhile, food markets and other shops are being looted and burned -- creating a desperate shortage of essential supplies. Missionaries and aid workers expect a continued influx of displaced persons -- many of them exhausted, malnourished, and suffering from malaria and other health concerns.
“We are least prepared to handle this emergency situation, although so far we have managed to respond to it with the meager resources we had,” says Fr. Ferrington Rayen, SDB, Superior of Sudan and South Sudan. “Now, our need is massive as the number is swelling and the response must be quick.”
Please consider making a life-saving gift today. Your support can alleviate the suffering of innocent victims of violence -- by helping us purchase desperately-needed medicine, food, fuel, mosquito nets, and other basic necessities for survival. Thank you for whatever you can give today.
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