Praise for Jesuit killed in country ‘like armed camp’

Praise for Jesuit killed in country ‘like armed camp’ Fr Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ

An Irish priest has praised his friend and colleague who was killed in South Sudan during a brutal attack last week.

Fr Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ was shot dead in the early hours of Thursday, November 15, when unknown assailants entered the Jesuit residence in Comboni. The assailants fled when other Jesuits in the residence, roused by the gunshots, raised the alarm.

“He was a very good man, he was really dedicated to South Sudan,” Fr Richard O’Dwyer SJ told The Irish Catholic, describing how he had lived with the Kenyan Jesuit when both priests were based in Rumbek, South Sudan, between 2013 and 2016.

Fr Odhiambo, who studied philosophy in Dublin’s Milltown Park from 1980 to 1982, had been principal of the Mazzolari Teacher’s College.

“He was very well educated, a very good teacher, a very good administrator, and lived a very simple Spartan lifestyle,” Fr O’Dwyer said. “He really dedicated his life to the education of young people.”


Describing himself as shocked by Fr Odhiambo’s death, Fr O’Dwyer added that in some ways there had been an inevitability to the tragedy.

“In one sense I’m not surprised because it’s an armed camp. Everybody has guns and the country has gone through so much trauma, not just in the last five years since the civil war began in December 2013, but the two previous wars against the Muslim North,” he said.

“It was something that I think was waiting to happen because there’s so many unresolved issues, old enmities that constantly resurface, and there’s been no proper rule of law and order around the country,” he continued. “It’s just a mixture of traditional customs and ways of solving issues, but unfortunately the more peaceful ones have been discarded in favour of violence and bloodshed.”

Missionaries in the area face a constant threat of violence, Fr O’Dwyer said.

“You’re living in a constant ebb and flow of conflict, and the fact that there’s so many guns around, something like that I felt was going to happen, whether it was Victor-Luke or me or somebody else,” he said.

The Jesuits have reiterated their commitment to the region, and have called for the implementation of a peace agreement reached in September.