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SOUTH SUDAN: Salesian Missionaries Aid Thousands Fleeing for Their Lives

(MissionNewsire) A fragile truce has been declared by both sides in the struggle for power in South Sudan after days of fighting erupted coinciding with the country’s fifth anniversary of independence from Sudan. On Monday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir demanded an immediate end to the fighting between his soldiers and those loyal to his rival Vice President Riek Machar, according to news released by CNN.

The most recent clashes have left more than 150 dead and thousands seeking safe shelter across the capital city of Juba. Non-emergency personnel with the U.S Embassy in Juba have also been evacuated. Instability and political conflicts have been all too commonplace across South Sudan since the country gained independence, pushing them at times back to the brink of civil war. Salesian missionaries living and working in Juba, and in places across the country, have been on the front lines providing humanitarian relief for those in need.

“Our country is plunged back into disorder,” says Father Shyjan C J, with the Don Bosco Mission in Juba. “There has been heavy shooting for days. Hundreds of people have been killed and the damage is severe. Many essential goods are lacking. Continue to pray for us, we are experiencing a very serious humanitarian crisis in our country.”

The Don Bosco Mission provides services to 3,000 women and children and the influx of those internally displaced by the recent fighting is stretching them beyond their means. Salesian missionaries are providing shelter, medical care and food but roads have been cut off since the start of the fighting on July 7. The concern is they will soon run out of supplies and basic necessities.

The United Nations issued a warning that the human rights situation in the country is “deteriorating rapidly” and is calling for safe passage for people trying to flee Juba. Many of those fleeing are desperate to find a safe haven as they are caught in the midst of deadly chaos.

After intense fighting in the village of Gumbo within Juba, the Salesian church compound was filled with more than 15,000. The Salesian primary and secondary school were opened to accommodate all the people seeking shelter. After morning came and the fighting ceased, many returned to their homes leaving Salesian missionaries with upwards of 8,000 people still needing humanitarian relief. They anticipate as evening falls many who went home will return to the church compound to have a safe place to spend the night.

People are looking to the Salesian church compound for a minimum of security. They believe and hope that the presence of religious and foreign volunteers will prevent the warring parties from attacking the mission. Salesian missionaries describe the situation as very challenging with people—afraid for their lives—wanting to see peace but are met with death and destruction.

“Our main concern now is how to feed the whole multitude of people seeking refuge in our mission,” adds Fr. Shyjan CJ. “Our food supply is becoming scarce and we have no chance to get food and other essential items for the thousands that are sheltered here. In addition, roads and airports are closed, the border with Uganda is controlled by the military and there are roadblocks everywhere so you cannot go anywhere to seek aid.”

The violence has affected Salesian missionaries in other parts of South Sudan as well. Missionaries in Wau, about 350 miles from Juba, have been sheltering 25,000 people for the last two weeks as violent clashes killed more than 50 two weeks ago and left thousands displaced. While people have been safe at the Salesian compound, supplies are running out at the facility.

Salesian missionaries are continuing to assess the situation and are working within their networks around the globe to access additional humanitarian aid. Responding to the ongoing civil strife is nothing new to Salesian missionaries in South Sudan. They have been continuing their educational and social development programs in communities across the country while also responding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Salesian missionaries provide education, social development services, nutrition programs and health clinics for poor youth and their families in South Sudan. For some, the education offered at Salesian schools is the only opportunity to gain an education and the skills necessary for future employment.



PHOTO: IDP’s from the Protection of Civilian site (PoC site) in Juba, South Sudan, take cover and seek safety from the heavy fighting between the SPLA and SPLA-IO. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

ANS – South Sudan – “We want peace, but here we see nothing but death and destruction”

ANS – South Sudan – Taking care of thousands of displaced people, hoping that the truce holds

CNN – South Sudan: President Kiir orders ceasefire

United Nations – South Sudan ceasefire ‘largely holding;’ UN urges safe passage for fleeing civilians

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