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You are not forgotten, Bishop Poggo tells Sudan

28 March 2024

Many Sudanese refugees have fled into neighbouring South Sudan, where an extreme heatwave has closed schools and destroyed harvests

Alamy

Women walk in the Gorom refugee settlement near Juba, in South Sudan, earlier this year

Women walk in the Gorom refugee settlement near Juba, in South Sudan, earlier this year

THE secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo, has visited Sudan, which is ravaged by civil war, to tell the population that they have not been forgotten by their fellow Christians.

Bishop Poggo made a “solidarity visit” to the country this week, almost a year after the conflict began. He preached in the Episcopal Cathedral in Port Sudan — sited in one of the few areas untouched so far by the conflict — and at an iftar as part of an interfaith meeting during Ramadan.

He told the congregation: “I have come to encourage you and to tell you that Sudan is not forgotten by the Anglican Communion. We pray for you often that peace comes to Sudan.”

Bishop Poggo is South Sudanese, and spoke of his own experience of war and displacement. “I know first-hand what it means to be a refugee or to be displaced. I have been displaced three times in the various conflicts in South Sudan.

“I want to encourage religious co-existence amongst you. Let us be bearers of peace in our communities, and call on the government and leaders to take responsibility. I appeal for respect of places of worship during this conflict, for all faiths. The Anglican Communion will do what we can to support you and the peace process in this nation.”

The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Ezekiel Kondo, said that Bishop Poggo was the first senior Anglican to visit the country since the conflict began — and an important symbol of solidarity for people who were suffering.

“Other conflicts in the world can divert media attention from the situation in Sudan,” he said, “but peace is urgently needed as well as humanitarian aid for displaced people within Sudan and for refugees in the neighbouring countries.”

The conflict in Sudan is causing a large-scale humanitarian crisis. More than 14,000 people have been killed, cholera is rife, and 5.6 million people have been forced out of their homes.

A BBC journalist this week visited the capital, Khartoum, and heard stories from survivors of ethnic violence, rape, and street executions. UN officials have described it as “one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history”.

The conflict arose from a power struggle in the country’s military leadership, which resulted in violent clashes between the regular army and a paramilitary force, the Rapid Support Forces, a year ago (News, 21 April 2023).

Many refugees have fled into neighbouring South Sudan, where an extreme heatwave has closed schools and destroyed harvests, worsening the existing hunger crisis. Temperatures are expected to stay at about 45ºC for two weeks; the cassava crop, on which many depend, is rotting in the ground.

Canon Edward Jale Wani, from St John’s, Kimu, in Kajo-Keji diocese, said: “It is much hotter this year than in other years. It’s also harming our harvests. That is one of the big disasters that we are experiencing. As a Church, we are asking that some good Samaritans come to our aid.”

Tearfund is one of the Christian charities working to support communities in South Sudan. Its country director for Sudan, Erickson Bisetsa, said: “Many people are already vulnerable and struggling with scarcity of food. This heatwave is yet another shock on top of the stresses climate change has brought us, such as flooding, economic instability, and conflict.”

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