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Thursday, March 30, 2017
Scottish Cardinal meets civil and religious leaders in Southern Sudan
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¬†Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Paul Chitnis, SCIAF Chief Executive, have spent the last few days meeting with religious and civil leaders in Southern Sudan. They will be in the country until 28 january. Vice President of the Southern Sudan government, Riek Machar, who studied at Strathclyde University, was proud to welcome the Scots to his country. The visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of Sudan's independence. While in Southern Sudan, the Cardinal and Mr Chitnis, also met with Mary Kiden, Minister for Social Affairs, Religious Affairs and Gender, and Archbishop Paulino Lukudu, Archbishop of Juba and President of the Sudanese Catholic Bishops' Conference. In 2005, after decades of civil war, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement. The peace agreement has encouraged many who fled Southern Sudan during the fighting to return home. They are now sheltering in camps. The Cardinal and Mr Chitnis visited a camp at Jebel Kujur where over 1,400 people live, sharing one well. The families explained how they had fled attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army ≠ a militia from Uganda which has murdered and mutilated people across the country. Angelica explained how the militia targeted her family, murdering her husband, severing her son's hand and attacking her so severely that she lost a leg. Another resident in the camp shared his experiences which included having his ears and lips severed. However the residents in the camp now face a new battle as one explained: "Before, the enemy was the LRA but now it is hunger." Although the Southern Sudanese are keen to return home, there is little infrastructure to support them. Those who remained were unable to farm as bombs and shells destroyed the land. There is very little left to eat especially during the current dry season. Cardinal O'Brien said: "I have been shocked by the suffering of the people but profoundly impressed by their courage and resilience." Thousands of people share one well and decades of fighting have left the country scarred. The Cardinal and Mr Chitnis also met with thousands of Dinkas who were returning to their homeland after a 12-year absence. They had walked 150 miles and still had over 100 miles to travel. Mr Chitnis added: "The signing of the peace agreement was a momentous breakthrough but we all still face the challenge of building a sustainable peace. The international community has to work with the Sudanese authorities to ensure the needs of the people, who have already suffered so much, are met and they can work towards a stable future." Cardinal O'Brien concluded: "It is a privilege to represent the people of Scotland at this crucial time. I have been impressed by the deep faith of the people, as we saw at Mass with the seminarians and as embodied by the staff of SCIAF's sister agency, the local Caritas." The Cardinal and Mr Chitnis will spend some time visiting camps for the internally displaced in Khartoum, before flying to Darfur to meet those embroiled in the conflict in the West of the country which has affected millions of people. Funds from Scotland are providing healthcare and schools to the people in this troubled region.
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