BY ISN STAFF | November 20, 2018
In the wake of the murder of Victor-Luke Odhiambo, S.J., in South Sudan, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar called for justice, reconciliation, peace and a complete disarmament in the central African nation. This call, in the form of a statement issued by Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J., conference president, came as part of a broader request for action to the South Sudanese government and people, as well as the international community, to respond to Fr. Odhiambo’s death and systemic violence and injustice plaguing the central African nation.
Fr. Odhiambo, originally from Kenya, was killed during an attack on the Jesuit community in Cueibet, South Sudan, in the early morning hours of November 15. Three other members of the Jesuit community, who were already asleep, were left unharmed. Fr. Odhiambo served as principal of Mazzolari Teachers’ College and the acting superior of the Jesuit community in Cueibet. He had been ministering in South Sudan for approximately 10 years before and prior to that had served in various roles at Jesuit ministries in Kenya.
According to the United Nations, the combination of armed conflict, inter-communal violence, disease outbreaks, and economic crisis has killed over 50,000 civilians. A recent study funded by the U.S. State Department suggests that the death toll may be even greater, estimating the dead at 382,000 since 2012. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are more than 2.1 million Sudanese displaced, over half of them seeking refuge in Uganda and Sudan. Those who remain face a grave humanitarian crisis. Eighty percent of the population lives in poverty, surviving on the equivalent of less than $1 per day.
The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar also called on the South Sudanese government to protect the lives of all those living in South Sudan regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation; to find and prosecute those responsible for the murder of Fr. Odhiambo; and to condemn the proliferation of illegal arms and small weapons being supplied to groups in South Sudan from Western and Asian countries.
To the international community, the Conference requested peacekeeping support and development aid to South Sudan be increased, particularly for education in the country; international scrutiny and assistance with the country’s fiscal policy to prevent abuse and corruption; strengthening of the leadership of the Catholic Church in the country to address the faith and justice needs impacting the people; urging the African Union, regional governments and the international community to support the implementation of the peace agreement; and encouraging all people and parties in South Sudan to reject the culture of violence and death that plagues the country.
The full statement published by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar can be found here.