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Thursday, October 27, 2016
Uganda: ordeal of kidnapped seminarians
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¬†Eight of the 40 students abducted by rebels last week from the Minor Seminary of Lachor, in northern Uganda, were from the same Holy Rosary parish, run by the Comboni Fathers. At least four are reported to have been killed, the Missionary News Service report. Parish priest Fr Cosimo de Iaco said two were killed because they were too weak to walk on a forced march. Their names were Patrik Oyek and Deogratias Wokorac, 19 and 13 years-old, but their bodies, as well as those of two more students, Geoffrey Okello and William Akena, 17 and 18 years-old, have not yet been found. "Patrik and Deogratias were both of weak build, as often occurs when you grow up with little nourishment", explained Fr Cosimo. "Deogratias in particular was very slight and had problems with his feet, also his mother told me in tears that he would never had made it long in the bush, but he was a courageous boy". Deogratias, without a father but brother of five (four girls and one younger brother), was a little leader for his friends. "He had managed to bring many of his friends to the church and create a nice group. They had chosen him as head of the oratory group. "Deogratias was not physically strong but had a generous heart and will to help others. A year ago he confided to me his vocation and desire to continue his religious studies", added the missionary. The abducted youths are divided into small groups and forced to carry heavy sacks of provisions, such as food, medicine, water and at times weapons of the rebels. If they slow down during the march they are repeatedly beaten. The LRA rebel commanders apparently 'shared out' the around 35 youths still in their hands (six have so far managed to flee) and have now taken different directions in the territory north of Gulu; but it appears that they have not yet reached the border with Sudan. The Ugandan military has pledged to continue search operations, but MISNA report that the Church is concerned that rescue actions could turn into armed confrontations, putting the seminarians' lives at risk. Gulu's Archbishop John Baptist Odama and the rector of the seminary of Lachor, Monsignor Matthew Odong, appealed to the military division of Gulu to proceed with caution and renounce to the use of combat helicopters to uncover the rebels. Holy Rosary parish has over 100-thousand residents and 60-thousand refugees. MISNA report that: "When tension rises and fear of child abductions by the rebels, the Church is one of the structures in which the youths seek shelter for the night. In these occasions also 2,000 children and youths between the ages of 10 and 18 sleep in the rooms of the oratory and courtyard." Yesterday MISNA said, the ARLPI (Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative) ≠ an inter-religious body that has been mediating between government and rebels to resolve the 16 year conflict - also issued a strongly-worded statement apealing for an end to the the violence and the release of the students. Source: MISNA
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