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Two Slain South Sudanese Catholic Sisters Laid to Rest in Juba, Eulogized as “our martyrs”

Two vehicles carrying the remains of Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba parked in front of St. Theresa’s Kator Cathedral of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese where their Funeral Mass was held before being laid to rest 20 August 2021. Credit: Fr. John Lo'boka Morris, Apostles of Jesus/Juba

The two South Sudanese Catholic Sisters who were among five people killed following a road ambush earlier this week have been eulogized as martyrs.

In his homily during the Funeral Mass of the two members of the Sacred Heart Sisters (SHS) streamed live on Facebook, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu expressed his criticism for the use of the term “unknown gunmen” in the Monday, August 16 murder on Juba-Nimula Road, the highway that connects South Sudan and Uganda.

“Sister Mary Daniel Abut and Sister Regina Roba Luate are our martyrs because they were killed in cold blood,” Archbishop Ameyu said Friday, August 20, and added in reference to the two slain Nuns, “These are our martyrs who will remain in our memories so that we can uplift our faith that God has given to us.”

“We must remember that the two sisters are martyrs in faith,” the Archbishop of Juba reiterated, adding that the two Catholic Sisters “died because of their faith, their conviction that through encouraging other people to follow God, they will acquire what is the ultimate end of our lives.”

Funeral Mass of the late Sr. Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba murdered in a road ambush 16 August 2021/Credit: John Lo'boka Morris, AJ/Juba

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In a statement dated Tuesday, August 17, SHS Superior General recalled the events of August 16 leading to what she described as “the cruel deaths” of two members of the Catholic Institute.

“The two Sisters were part of the 12 passengers (7 Sisters and 5 men) on a Costa bus returning to Juba from the Centenary Celebration of Loa Catholic Parish dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption,” Sr. Alice Jurugo Drajea stated.

The Costa bus that had left Loa Parish around 7.30 a.m. on the fateful day had hardly traveled for about an hour when it “ran into an ambush of armed men who opened gunfire,” Sr. Drajea recounted in her August 17 statement. Suspecting that the male passengers would be the first targets of the gunmen, Sr. Drajea continued, the driver of the bus ordered them to alight from the bus and to flee.

Four Sisters also attempted to flee while three elderly Sisters remained on the bus, the SHS Superior narrated, and added, “The gunmen intended to burn the (three Sisters) in the bus as they did a small car in front of the bus. Thank God, they (had) neither a lighter nor petrol to start off the fire.”

While the male passengers fled into the bush alongside four Sisters, Sr. Drajea narrated, “the armed men followed and shot two of the Sisters.”

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Two male persons who were on the bus were among the dead, Eye Radio reported and added that “a boda-boda rider also died after he was knocked down by a speeding truck - fleeing from the attack. This brings the total number of the deceased to 5.”

In his homily during the Funeral Mass of the two slain Nuns at St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Kator of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese, Archbishop Ameyu faulted the use of the term “unknown gunmen.”

“Natural death is a good way of ending life on the earth, but not lives ended suddenly because of the so-called unknown gunmen,” he said, and added, “The jargon of unknown gunmen I will reject; and let us together reject because those who killed the Sisters” can be identified.

Those behind the road ambush and the August 16 murder, the South Sudanese Archbishop said, “are people known to some of us in a remote distance.”

“If we say they are unknown gunmen, we condone that they have to be kept unknown. But it is a challenge for us today after the death of these Sisters, plus three others who are just cut short of their own life to denounce them,” Archbishop Ameyu said.

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He continued, “These unknown gunmen must not be unknown because they are known by God with a number of their rivals; they are known by God, and they are known by some of us because the killing of the two Sisters was not a killing only of one person who comes and kill one and kill the other. It was a group assault on the bus of the Sisters. The car of the sisters was clearly Mark with the Divine Master picture on the window. They were murdered because they are Sisters.”

The Local Ordinary of Juba Archdiocese described the killing of the two Sisters as “a sad moment for us in South Sudan.” He added, “We must stand against all the negative things of our lives. If we shut all these things, these two Sisters would have not perished in this way.”

“We must reflect on the dignity of a human person first. No one has the right to take any life of any person, even if he's a criminal,” he said, and reiterated, “We do not have the right to take the life of any person. But it is unfortunate that all of us have experienced this sadness one day or another.”

The Archbishop further prayed for conversion of hearts saying, “The Grace of conversion is always there. We must convert. We must change into doing good things for ourselves in order to salvage our Church. And in order to salvage our nation, we must do good things, not killing people, not killing Sisters, not killing innocent people.”

South Sudanese Catholic Bishops who graced the Funeral Mass of the late Sr. Mary Daniel Abut and Sr. Regina Roba at St. Theresa's Kator Cathedral of Juba Archdiocese on 20 August 2021. Credit: Fr. John Lo'boka Morris, AJ/Juba

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“The souls of these two Sisters are in the hands of God. God has given them tests all their lives and their life has been found worthy. That's why the Lord is to take them back to Himself. We are from God and to God we must return,” the South Sudanese Archbishop said.

He added, “We need to identify with one another in order to offer our prayers to God so that God can open our hearts. Our hearts of stones should be removed and transformed to hearts of flesh.”

Also addressing the faithful during the Funeral Mass, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei Diocese said the leadership of the Church would not be accept intimidation, and cautioned those operating in “bushes” against targeting church members.

Bishop Lodu urged the South Sudanese government to work hard to protect its citizens.

The speaker of South Sudan’s Revitalized National assembly, Jemma Nunu Kumba, described the killing of Sr. Abut and Sr. Roba a “a targeted attack on the Church, women and Mothers of South Sudan.”

The killing of women in cold blood “is moral decomposition”, she decried, and challenged the people of God in the 10-year-old nation to support the government in renewing the moral stage of South Sudan.

On his part, the Deputy Governor of Central Equatoria State, Sarah Nene, condemned the killing of the two SHS members and described the August 16 incident as “a terror” attack.

She said the State and national governments would work toward ensuring “that the perpetrators are brought to face the law because it was a purposeful murder.”