AFRICA/SUDAN - Endless conflict, 10 million displaced. The Bishop of El Obeid: no one listens to the voice of God and the voice of the people

Monday, 17 June 2024 armed conflicts   refugees   displaced persons  

El Obeid (Agenzia Fides) - The terrible news from Sudan does not stop. The figures are frightening: according to "Reliefweb", since April 2023, the beginning of the conflict, 9.2 million people have been forcibly displaced, 7.1 million of them within the country and 1.9 million in neighboring countries. A tragic situation considering that Sudan itself and several neighboring countries had already hosted a large number of refugees before this new emergency (in Sudan alone, about 1 million refugees were fleeing from other crisis areas).
South Sudan and Chad, two countries literally besieged by the cross-border refugees, host 670,000 and 758,000 Sudanese respectively and are on the verge of collapse. The refugees, now mostly civilians, need water, food, shelter, medical care and basic necessities.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is struggling to register the new arrivals and move them to safer places. Non-governmental organizations are becoming less active on the ground, forced to leave the country or relocate for security reasons (as in the case of the medical organization Doctors Without Borders, which had to suspend its activities at the South Hospital in El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State, after repeated attacks between late May and early June).

"The conflict situation in our country," the Bishop of El-Obeid Tombe Trille Yunan tells Fides, "is still very serious, we are constantly recording new clashes in different areas of Sudan". The conflict has been going on for more than a year (since April 15, 2023) and involves the two leaders of the two warring parties, General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, head of the government and the armed forces (SAF), and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia. "The war between these two," the Bishop continues, "has led to the destruction of state and private facilities, people are suffering from hunger, lack of medical care and lack of supplies of essential goods, including water. Internet access has become a privilege for a few, and even for those few, the duration of access is very limited."
El-Obeid is the capital of North Kordofan state in Sudan.
Bishop Tombe Trille recently called on the two warring parties to kneel and pray to end a conflict that is as senseless as it is cruel. "I call on those in charge to kneel in prayer," the prelate said, "and to listen to the voice of God and the voice of the people, children and women who are crying out for peace, and also to the blood that is flowing from our country, of absolutely innocent people who have died in the crossfire.

Appeals have so far gone unheeded.
"Now," the bishop admits, "nobody is listening to anyone, the leaders continue to fight and kill, convinced that they have the upper hand, and nobody is willing to step back and, above all, to seek dialogue. The warring parties are more likely to talk about how to get rid of the other than about dialogue. Our leaders are not yet ready to meet. Their mantra is: 'The other group does not want to lay down its arms, so the only way is to defeat them on the field'."

In such a context, it is also difficult to carry out the daily activities related to one's own pastoral work. Moving around the diocese or beyond, meeting parishes, celebrating masses and administering the sacraments. "I move at my own risk for my pastoral work, sometimes through the desert," says Bishop Tombe Trille. "For a journey of just two hours, it now takes me two weeks or at least ten days." "Nevertheless," he adds, "I continue to carry out the mission, even if everything calls for caution. But the situation is so serious that nowhere is safe, not even in the room where I live. That is why it is better that I continue my mission, I have just returned from South Sudan, from the border area, for the ordination of a deacon. We always ask the members of our communities to console each other, to persevere in prayers, in mission and in the administration of the sacraments, even if some parishes are without our services because they have been evacuated. The catechists in particular keep the communities together in these difficult times". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 17/6/2024)