16,000 South Sudanese Seek Refuge at Church ‘Where Jesus Is’ In Midst of Genocide, Civil War, and Famine

People from South Sudan stand near a tent used as a church at a railway station camp, where they have spent the last four years, in Khartoum, May 11, 2014.

South Sudanese Christians are ready to die close to Jesus Christ in church, a Roman Catholic priest has said, as 16,000 people have sought refuge at a cathedral compound as the nation spirals into genocide and famine.

“It wasn’t safe anywhere, but people said that if they were going to be killed, they preferred to be killed in the church because this is the place where Jesus is present. They wanted to die in the church rather than die in their homes,” said Father Germano Bernardo, a priest in Wau, according to Catholic News Service on Tuesday.

St. Mary Catholic Cathedral in the city has reportedly sheltered as many as 16,000 people in its compound, with the church being one of the only places of refuge for the hungry and suffering civilians.

The United Nations has warned that South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, is on the brink of all-out genocide, stemming from ethnic divisions and a civil war between forces loyal to the president and vice president, respectively.

Rita Williams, one mother who sought refuge with her three children at St. Mary, said soldiers chased her family out of her house and burned it.

“We have nothing, not even salt. Our clothes are dirty, and some days all we have to eat or drink is water. We’re waiting. I don’t know for what, but we’re afraid to go back home,” Williams said.

The civil war violence has also directly affected the church, Bernardo revealed, with two members of the cathedral choir killed in June 2016.

“They were walking home in the evening after choir practice and were attacked by six soldiers who shot them dead,” the priest said.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Stoyan Zaimov