JUBA – A meeting of South Sudan Catholic Bishops in the country’s capital Juba this afternoon condemned recent highway attacks in which five people including two Catholic nuns were killed by unidentified armed criminals, saying the so-called unknown gunmen are known to the government but are allowed to escape with impunity.
Violence against the Church has increased in recent months. In April, Bishop-elect of the Rumbek Catholic Diocese, Father Christian Carlassare, was shot and wounded several times in the leg at a night attack in the Lakes state capital Rumbek sparking uproar among the local population with President Salva Kiir Mayardit promising justice.
Last month, an attack on a convoy of vehicles on their way from Loa Parish of the Catholic Diocese of Torit in Nimule, where Loa Mission Centenary celebrations were held, to Juba was attacked by unidentified gunmen resulting in the killing of at least five people, two of whom are Catholic nuns and the government hasn’t yet established the identity of the attackers.
In a strong-worded statement on Wednesday following a two-day meeting in Juba, South Sudan Catholic Bishops condemned the alarming violence against the Church, and said the attackers are well-known to the community in South Sudan, but the government has always allowed them to run away with the crime without accountability.
“We condemn unreservedly the murder on 16th August 2021 of our two dear Sacred Heart Sisters Mary Daniel Abbud and Regina Roba, and their fellow travelers on the Juba-Nimule road. While we call for forgiveness and reconciliation, we also demand that the killers be identified and held to account,” they said in the statement seen by Sudans Post.
“We reject the language of ‘unknown gunmen’; the local community usually knows who the killers are, but they are allowed to escape with impunity. We reject attempts to use this tragedy to derail the peace process. We are also outraged at other attacks on the church and its personnel, particularly the shooting of Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare in Rumbek,” they added in the statement.
The Church leaders also “recall the murder of our dear Sr Dr Veronika in Yei in 2016, the Regional Facilitator of the South Sudan Council of Churches in Malakal, Juliano Ambrose Otwali, killed in November 2020, Jesuit Fr Victor Odhiambo in Rumbek, and other church personnel. Once again we call for forgiveness and reconciliation for these shameful acts but also that those responsible must be held accountable. We condemn also the attacks on church property. We reject intimidation.”
“Indeed it is not only church personnel who are suffering violence. Our country is supposedly at peace, yet many of our citizens face violence on a daily basis. At this very moment people are being killed and displaced around Tombura and the rest of Western Equatoria, and elsewhere. People are still living in fear in UN POC camps.”