Vicenza (Agenzia Fides) - "I have no doubts about the desire to return to my South Sudan, people are waiting for me and, beyond the many problems, there is also great hope. And I want to be part of it". The violent attack of which he was the victim in the night between April 25 and 26, has left deep marks on his body and soul but does not seem to have weakened Mgr. Christian Carlassare, Bishop of Rumbek, the enthusiasm of the pastor and love for his mission Country. Three months after the tragic event, while he is undergoing complete rehabilitation after a long treatment in Italy, in an interview with Agenzia Fides, the bishop speaks of his hopes and expectations of a people who are currently celebrating the tenth anniversary of independence. , but that is still far from the dream of a complete and peaceful democracy.
"It was a very dramatic moment, I had to entrust myself to the Lord thinking that my work would end there. This gave me freedom and the awareness that our witness is valid when we are faithful to the Gospel to the end, in our daily fidelity. At the moment I am waiting with great peace and inner freedom, ready to return as soon as possible", he says, recalling the tragic moments of the attack. "The first three weeks - he reports - I remained lied still in bed and after a first simple bandage operation in Rumbek to stop the loss of blood, I was transferred to Nairobi. I stayed there until a few weeks ago, I underwent 6 different surgeries, I started walking with crutches and after a certain point my condition visibly improved. Now I have come to Italy, to my town in Vicenza without crutches and I have to exercise to fully recover". In the meantime, the investigation continues its course: "There has been no official version to date - he says. There have been several arrests and there are currently six people still in prison: they have been transferred from Rumbek to Juba, a clear sign that the case is being passed to the court in the capital. The six currently in prison are part of a family that acted in the interests of the clan that, in all likelihood, disagreed with my appointment. But the attack, it goes without saying, did not benefit anyone, no one benefited from it in the end". On the fact that it seems that the aggressors came from Catholic circles, "I would like to reiterate - he underlines - that if a family pushes for its own interests to the point of using violence, it does not matter whether they are Christians or of other faiths, they are armed individuals who have chosen to commit these acts. In the end they attracted a lot of resentment from the majority of the population, while there has been a real solidarity race towards me, both from the people of Rumbek and the South Sudanese in Kenya, who even came to visit me: a very positive reaction that gives hope that the population will take sides against senseless violence. For me, in any case, what matters is the good of the Church and the country, I do not expect things for myself, the diocese must get going, understanding and purifying itself". Meanwhile, in the diocese of Rumbek, new appointments have been made regarding the leadership and pastoral care while waiting for Father Christian to take his place again.
"First of all, I have done what I could for my health and I think I can come back as soon as possible. However, it is very important that everything possible is done to resolve the case and, perhaps even more crucial, that the diocese has an internal path of regeneration to guarantee safety and the possibility of working and making decisions. In my absence, an apostolic administrator has been appointed by the Vatican in the person of the bishop of the diocese of Wau Mathew Remigio. He has full authority in the diocese and in the conduct of the process and can count on a team of collaborators composed of Father Andrea Osman, a priest of the diocese appointed vicar general, two nuns and a Jesuit priest, as well as a lay person".
In the background, there is the situation in South Sudan, a country that has experienced very long periods of conflict since its independence in 2011, combined with famine, poverty and humanitarian emergencies. In the last two years, thanks to the peace agreements and the launch of a first experience of government of national unity, the hope of a return to normality has been rekindled. But the continuous clashes, misery and difficulties in the path of development risk continually mortifying it. Mgr. Carlassare affirms: "It is a moment of great hope for South Sudan that makes us look at the country with a little more perspective. There are two elements to take into account, the first is that peace is always very fragile, it is always subject to limits and situations of violence that undermine it. It is a long journey that must be taken without being frightened of how far it can take us. There are reports of constant clashes and serious situations that must be resolved locally. A classic example is the Upper Nile State, oppressed by strong tensions due to lands allocated with a tribal system that cannot function. People must be educated to live together and the government, at the same time, must show that it works for security. The second is the excessive circulation of weapons. The Rumbek area itself, like many others, is subject to a huge flow of weapons that end up in the hands of civilians not controlled by the government. It is the result of the conflict that brought the weapons and gave them to those who should not have them. It is inevitable that fear and uncertainty are generated: in many areas there are clashes in the streets, especially where there are resources, because people go to take them by force with weapons". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/7/2021)