Sudan : As fighting erupts, priests stay with their flocks

Priests in war-torn Sudan are remaining to tend to their flocks despite the conflict escalating across Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and throughout the Darfur region.

Despite a ceasefire, violent clashes continued between the semi-official Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army, with civilian deaths topping 400.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), one missionary priest stressed that, despite intensified fighting, he would stay in the country as long as possible to minister to those affected by the violence. He said: “I want to stay until the last minute, I do not want to leave the people here alone. A lot of our Catholics came [to the church]. You know, here, the Church is their hope. But we face the same problems as the rest of the people”.

Churches have opened their doors to provide shelter and refuge, but project partners told ACN that one of their biggest challenges is the shortage of water. Water is essential with temperatures in Khartoum exceeding 100°F, over 40ºC.

ACN was told that people are heading to the Blue Nile, which flows through the capital, to get water, but it can still be dangerous to journey through the city and even if people do manage to get river water, it is dirty and needs to be purified.

Project partners said the markets are empty and food is scarce and fighting often breaks out in the long queues at petrol stations, over what little fuel is available.

While no Church workers have been killed so far, despite the rising civilian death toll, churches have suffered damage, as have other public buildings, including hospitals.

ACN was told that the church in Bahri, northern Khartoum, was hit by a bomb, but those on site managed to put out the fire after it took hold of the roof. Armed fighters also forced their way into the cathedral in Khartoum, and a chapel belonging to a religious congregation was bombed. In conclusion, one project partner told ACN: “Will the conflict end soon? It is our prayer… But in reality, neither side is ready. Internationally, people push for dialogue, but there is still shooting.”

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