AFRICA/SUDAN - "There is an ongoing forgotten massacre on the Nuba Mountains " complaint on behalf of the Bishop of El Obeid; priests and religious sisters are not abandoning the camp

Khartoum (Agenzia Fides) - "On the Nuba mountains people are dying of starvation and bombings" this is the complaint on behalf of His Exc. Mgr.Macram Max Gassis, Bishop of El Obeid, the diocese which straddles Sudan and South Sudan. In its territory also the Nuba Mountains are encompassed, which belong to South Kordofan, State of Sudan at the center of clashes between the army of Khartoum and the men of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the northern sector (SPLA/N). This movement is linked to SPLA, which fought for the independence of South Sudan, and is now in power in the new State (Independent since July 2011).
Bishop Gassis recalls that "the local population feels part of Southern Sudan, so much so that they use the south-Sudanese currency and not the currency in Khartoum. Soldiers of the SPLA of the Nuba Mountains fought for the independence of South Sudan : the state of West Equatoria (now part of South Sudan) was released by them. The south is so indebted to the fighters of the Nuba Mountains".
As far as the Church is concerned, Mgr. Gassis emphasizes that "no priest, man or woman religious, in addition to medical staff, have gone away. They are there to show that, as Jesus says, 'there is no greater love than to give one’s life for his/her friends'. It is not easy to stay there, under constant bombardment and see mangled bodies of civilians, especially children " said the Bishop.
Between South Sudan and Sudan tension is growing to the point that one fears an open conflict between the two States (see Fides 09/02/2011). "But the new South Sudan does not want war", said Mgr. Gassis. "The problem is President Omar Bashir, who is in a corner and hopes to come up with a new war. After losing the south, the Sudanese president tries to maintain control over areas of Sudan aimed to break free from central government" the Bishop explains. "The forces of Khartoum - Bishop Gassis continues - entered the Blue Nile but are surrounded by rebels. Then there are the critical situations of the Nuba Mountains, of Abyei and Darfur, which gets worse day by day. Now that the South has closed the oil valve, high prices will start to be felt in northern Sudan. Army officers have sent a memorandum to President Bashir, to the Minister of Defence and to the Chief of Staff, in which they complain about the conditions of the military".
"So there are a number of signals that concern the President, who therefore tries to solve problems with new wars", says the Bishop of El Obeid. "He was successful with the occupation of Abyei because it is a flat area. But the occupation of the Nuba Mountains is another thing. There are mountains with caves, where the local guerrillas can hide to suddenly attack the military in Khartoum. Guerrillas of the Nuba Mountains are also disciplined and well armed. This unfortunately does not prevent the suffering of the civilian population. Even the Church has had its victims, such as the representative of the diocesan Caritas killed in Kadugli (capital of Southern Kordofan) 5 months ago, a layman who was shot by the Sudanese troops" concludes Mgr. Gassis. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 10/2/2012)

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