Cathedrals Shelter Refugees

United Nations Mission in South Sudan

Adapted from a report by Gavin Drake, ACNS

Thousands of people in Juba have fled their homes and are seeking sanctuary in the city’s Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals and other places of worship as fierce gun battles rage around them.

The Rev. James Oyet Latansio, general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), reports that many areas are threatened.

“We are trying to take cover from flying bullets in Juba,” Father Latansio said. “The SSCC Office Compound is a no-go area under control of the [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] government forces. They are very harsh. There are very many unknown armed men moving in the residential areas, creating fear among the civil population.”

He said that many thousands of displaced people have sought sanctuary in church compounds, including Arkanjelo Wani Lemi, presiding bishop of the Africa Inland Church. The figure includes more than 15,000 people who have fled the regions of Nyakuron, Rock City, Hai Mauna, Munuki, and Jebel Marra in search of shelter, food, and security.

They have assembled at sites including St. Joseph’s Church, the Anglican All Saints’ Cathedral, the Roman Catholic St. Theresa’s Cathedral, and the Gumba Sherikat area.

The Rt. Rev. Enoch Tombe, Anglican Bishop of Rejaf, said Monday night that about 1,000 people have taken shelter in All Saints’ Cathedral.

“Please do pray for South Sudan,” Father Latansio said, saying that the people of the country “surely do not deserve this difficult punishment.”

The Anglican Alliance is in close touch with the Province of South Sudan and Sudan, and is working with SUDRA, the church’s relief and development arm, on the response to those in need.

“This is vicious and senseless violence, disrupting the fragile peace process,” said the Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance. “Yet again it is the most vulnerable who are traumatized and harmed, and in their hour of need they turn to the Church.

“As a Communion we must stand alongside the Church in South Sudan. We pray for the vulnerable and pray that the ceasefire declared by both political leaders will hold.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement Monday night appealing for South Sudan’s leaders to “cease hostilities immediately and accept mediation.”

The U.N. Security Council met in an emergency secret session this week and its 15 members strongly condemned the escalating violence. Koro Bessho, Japan’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that the council had expressed particular outrage about attacks on U.N. compounds and protection of civilian sites in Juba.

Two U.N. peacekeepers from China and a U.N. staff member are among those killed in recent days.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the U.N., has called for an immediate arms embargo. “The renewed violence is outrageous,” he said. “It is yet another grievous setback. It deepens the country’s suffering. It makes a mockery of commitments to peace.”

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