Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "The separation between Sudan and South Sudan has left a great emptiness at an ecclesial level here in the North", says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Yunan Tombe Triller Kuku Andali, Bishop of El Obeid, in the north - Western Sudan.
"Because of the division of the Country, several priests, religious men and catechists have returned to their homelands that are in what has become a new state, South Sudan. We were especially affected by the lack of catechists to animate the approximately 200 pastoral centers spread over the entire territory of the diocese".
"On the other hand - continues the Bishop - the war in South Sudan has meant that in our diocese there are a large number of South Sudanese refugees". "The number of registered refugees is more than 200,000, but there are many refugees who are not registered. More than half of the registered refugees are Catholics and this involves a pastoral challenge because we have to offer them not only humanitarian but also spiritual assistance. We are therefore forming catechists among the refugees welcomed in the camps".
The diocese of El Obeid extends for 888.939 km2, counts 11.842.000 inhabitants of whom 95.000 are Catholics.
"Most local Christians live in the Nuba mountains", says Bishop Andali. "The greatest difficulty we encounter with this large group of faithful is to ensure religious education in state schools. Religious education is compulsory in schools run by the state but these do not print books for the formation of Catholics".
According to Mgr. Andali "in Sudan there is no real religious freedom but tolerance towards other religions. We can carry out our activities within our old churches but not outside. State regulations prohibit the transfer of land to the Church and the construction of new churches. Thanks to the help of the universal Church we have purchased private houses to carry out some of our pastoral activities. In this way we can reach our faithful in their homes to pray with them even in areas where there are no real churches".
The war in South Sudan severely hit the Church in both countries. In addition to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, hundreds of thousands are in other neighboring states such as Uganda.
"I know Juba well, I was Rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary of São Paulo in Juba from 2012 until my episcopal ordination and my assignment in El Obeid in 2017", says Bishop Andali. "This year I went to visit South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and to my surprise I also found many people from Juba. About 280,000 South-Sudanese faithful are welcomed in Uganda but are deprived of religious assistance". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 4/10/2018)