Last August, I wrote about the good news, the positive situation in Riimenze, South Sudan. Today that situation no longer exists. Has the agriculture project collapsed? No. The people are simply the victims of a callous civil war in which they have never wanted to participate. The situation is not hopeless.
Several of our religious congregations and donor partners have responded generously with funding sufficient for the immediate needs.
Significantly for us, neither the rebels nor the Government soldiers have threatened us. Indeed, they have made it explicitly clear they appreciate what we are doing and neither our missionary personnel nor our large farm, including the animals, have been touched.
The photos from Sr Rosa tell a sad story. Thank you to our valiant Community in Riimenze for the support and for the help.
It is not the mission we planned but it is the one that now confronts us. We pray that the local people may be allowed to go home before the wet season sets in.
As usual, the victims are innocent people living in very simple circumstances who want peace not war. I lived happily in Riimenze for more than two years and know personally many of these people. It is so sad to see this suffering imposed upon them.
One visitor to Riimenze in mid-January was moved to write,
‘I do not have words to describe what we saw and witnessed. How this could happen in South Sudan is beyond me. On 6 January I went to the village and saw about 1000 people camped around the church compound under the mango trees. Some had tarpaulins strung up and others had makeshift structures that did not look in any way permanent. Today, there are more than 4,000 people around that compound! The structures begin from the side of the Solidarity fence at the left side of the church and stretch behind the church across the area under the mango trees to the priest’s small compound. We have bought all the tarpaulins available in Yambio and there are not enough for the families in Riimenze. The nights are now cold and people are suffering. Those with no tarp are putting up palm branches which give a little measure of privacy but no protection from the weather.
As people arrive they register at the church. They are sent to different areas with their own village people. Leaders care for their groups. There is a shortage of water. It is shocking to see the people having to resort to living like this.
Anyone found outside of the restricted area may be killed. A couple of the young men told me they had never witnessed anything as bad as this before. They are horrified and frightened. No one knows what to do. No-one cares. It is horrible…’
Solidarity with South Sudan, through Sr Rosa, leader of our Agriculture Project, has been the main provider of food, water and other assistance for these people but a few NGOS are now becoming involved. Rosa recently provided a comprehensive update.
– Br Bill