(Vatican Radio) “Notwithstanding a return to calm in the South Sudanese city of Yei, those living in rural areas continue to die immersed in the deafening silence of the media and before the indifferent gaze of the international community.”
This dramatic statement was made by Catholic Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei in Equatoria region, South Sudan.
Bishop Lodu Tombe was speaking to “Radio Easter” in Juba, and the interview was reported on in the Vatican “Osservatore Romano” newspaper.
He said that the country has been hit by a wave of murders and massacres, which are believed to have been carried out by mixed military-civilian groups that target suspected supporters of the former vice president, Riek Machar.
Lodu Tombe said that hundreds of people have lost their lives in violent attacks in villages on the outskirts of Yei and said they are dying also due to lack of food and medicine.
He said the population lives in constant fear of new waves of violence. He decried the lack of security on the roads and said that villagers are unable to reach the city of Yei and farmers are unable to travel to their fields to be able to cultivate them.
The bishop says the population therefore will be forced to rely on humanitarian assistance throughout the coming year because there are no crops.
He explained that his own Diocese of Yei includes nine parishes located across Yei River State and in villages of Amadi State: “unfortunately only two parishes are functioning. In the others the priests are unable to care for the Christian communities due to the wave of violence that exploded last July and that continues to endanger both the population and the priests”.
The UN Human Rights Council this month warned that South Sudan is "on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war which could destabilise the entire region".
After a recent mission to the nation, the head of a team of UN human rights investigators described a shattered country where children as young as two have been raped and she urged immediate deployment of a 4,000-strong regional protection force "to protect civilians all across South Sudan".
Bishop Lodu Tombe said the people of South Sudan are exhausted and together with the Catholic Church and other religious confessions appeal for an end to hostilities and the restoration of peace in the country.
“We appeal to all parties in the conflict for peace” said Bishop Lodu Tombe “and at the same time we thank the Government for its efforts to establish order”.
At the moment the only two operational parishes in Yei Diocese are those of Christ the King Cathedral and Sacred Heart Parish-Lomin.
Father Emmanuel Lodongo Sebit, General Secretary of the Diocese said that “instability and lack of security do not allow for parish activities or for the assistance of people in difficulty.”
Father Lodongo said all the other parishes have been looted and destroyed and many Christians have been forced to flee.
During Christmas Mass Bishop Lodu Tombe and Father Lodongo exhorted all South Sudanese to intensify their commitment to work for peace in Africa’s youngest nation.
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