09 February 2017 – Fr. Jesus Aranda, the parish priest of the Catholic Sacred Heart Parish in South Sudan’s Kajo-Keji has said in a communication that he and the other missionaries working in that area are all fine. However, they “feel afflicted, downhearted and sad for what has taken place in Kajo-Keji County over the past few weeks”.

In January this year some people were reported killed by military near a church, including one of the main catechists of the parish. This and other violent incidents sparked fear and a massive exodus of the population. Thousands of people have fled the area on a daily basis for fear of more violence.

Kajo-Keji people forced to leave home

Photo: Waakhe Simon Wudu

“This has been an intense time for us missionaries as we journey together with the people of Kajo-Keji. I have witnessed so much pain, aguish, fear, powerlessness, frustration and injustices. I feel troubled to see thousands of people: children, youth, head of families and elderly all moving in a massive exodus. They walk for many kilometres towards the border with Uganda carrying just a few belongings to the refugee camps across the border”, said the priest.

No fighting has been reported in the town of Kajo-Keji lately, but people fear to be trapped if government and opposition forces clash with each other. There are reports that rebels are around that area and major roads are blocked.

Fr. Aranda added that people have also been badly affected by the current economic crisis in South Sudan. “People live in a kind of economic slavery as the country faces a deep economic crisis. This and the fear of violence force them to leave their homeland and become refugees in neighbouring countries”.

Fr. Jesus Aranda with refugee children, Uganda

Photo: J. Aranda

The missionaries intend to remain in the Sacred Heart Parish of Kajo-Keji. However, the entire pastoral team of the parish, including the 80-years old missionary Fr. Isaac Martin, is looking for the best way to serve the parishioners who have now left the parish and become refugees in Uganda.

“The situation Kajo-Keji’s people live now is a violation against human dignity. All that people want is to live in peace and tranquillity. We need people to join us in prayer for South Sudan”, concluded Fr. Aranda.