Peace begins at grass roots level for Catholics in war-torn Sudan

Catholic workers in the contested border region between Sudan and South Sudan are launching new efforts to make peace between the two groups that claim the isolated and oil-rich region of Abyei.

Although South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, several border areas have remained in dispute. A planned 2005 referendum on the region’s future never happened, and in 2011 Misseriya militias and northern troops attacked the area, driving more than 100,000 into what became a sprawling refugee camp by the town of Agok.

Abyei’s plight has largely been neglected by media and NGOs since civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, such that the local Catholic parish, with just two priests, is tasked with providing many necessities.  Funded mainly by Dutch Catholics, the parish has worked to drill wells, reopen clinics, rebuild schools and provide seeds and tools so thousands of displaced people can return to a home with basic infrastructure.

“Even though we are forgotten by many, we nonetheless know that God is with us. And we receive help from people all over the world to help us feed those who have been displaced and are waiting for peace,” according to Father Karlo Kaw.

Despite the cancellation of a peace conference planned for last month, Church leaders continue to work for peace, with Father Biong Kuol explaining that big issues can be left to politicians, but “we have to start with people making peace at the grass roots, on the ground, without involving those politicians”.