Mission School in South Sudan Converts Classrooms into IDP Camps amid Lockdown

A Catholic Mission School in South Sudan’s Archdiocese of Juba is hosting over seven hundred persons displaced by intercommunal clashes as schools remain closed in the East-Central African country.

In an interview with ACI Africa Tuesday, October 27, the Parish Priest of Mary Queen of the Apostles, Fr. Vino Kumar said a number of children, women and elderly people fleeing from the three of his sixteen chapels have been given refuge at a primary school premise at the Holy Cross Chapel located some 25km from the capital Juba.

“The people are staying in our school; we have two school blocks, which have eight classrooms; they are living in those blocks, they are using a small borehole,” Fr. Vino told ACI Africa.

He said that the IDPs are staying under trees during the day and sleeping in classrooms at night.

They are also provided with humanitarian support including food and clothing which, the Cleric said, is distributed by the Legion of Mary, a lay apostolic association of Catholics who perform acts of charity under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fr. Vino explained that the clash that arose more than a week ago between the two sections of the same Mundari tribe of the country’s Central Equatoria has not only left houses burnt to ashes but also claimed the lives of many civilians. 

“I heard that some have been shot dead, houses were burnt and the people who came from the other side pushed these people towards us and they took refuge here in Luri Holy Cross Chapel,” the Missionary Cleric explained.

According to the Cleric of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (MMI), assessment of the arrivals in Luri has been made and the accurate details would be presented to charity organizations in the country to intervene.

When he spoke to ACI Africa, Fr. Vino noted that a list of 763 internally displaced people, including women, children and elderly people had been made and that about 700 of these had already been provided with basic necessities by the Legion of Mary.

He said that some of the clothes distributed had been collected for six months and were intended for the poor people in hospitals and orphanages.

“The clothes are the ones I collected during the five to six months because we were doing our ministry in the central prison in Juba and then in the hospital and orphanage homes,” the Indian-born Cleric told ACI Africa.

He added, “During this season of COVID-19, we could not go distribute these things and now those clothes are the ones we gave to the IDPs and they are very happy.”

Fr. Vino also disclosed that the cause of the clashes that led to the displacement was a shortage of water and pastures.

“All the men are still in the bushes fighting over cattle, water and pastures and those who couldn’t join the fight have now taken refuge in our Chapel,” the member of MMI told ACI Africa October 27.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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