Canon Ian Woodward, Chair of the Salisbury Sudans partnership, shares this update
If there were as many agreements to allow humanitarian aid into Sudan as there have been broken ceasefires, many lives would have been saved and people fed. The unwillingness of both sides to keep to ceasefires brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States at talks in Jeddah is an international disgrace and example of a lust for power by the leaders of the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Force that is destroying Sudan.
Archbishop Ezekiel has set up a temporary provincial office in Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast which is now peaceful and where the banks are re-opening so we are looking at ways we provide funds for humanitarian aid and particularly essential food supplies. We have still not (yet) been able to speak to him, but we are grateful that this important step will enable us to help him and his people. There is a continuing concern for not only Sudan but also South Sudan as this is a regional crisis with refugees fleeing north the Egypt, west to Chad, east to Ethiopia and particularly south to South Sudan. Many of this last group are South Sudanese who originally fled their home country in 2013 coup attempt that caused so much death and suffering – another power struggle just 16th months after South Sudan’s independence which promised so much hope.
There have been a number of conferences and gatherings on the crisis in Sudan, including a Zoom call hosted by Bp Nick Bains of Leeds, which included folks from the Foreign Office and a number of agencies. We had a particularly focused day-long gathering at St Anthony’s college in Oxford as part of their Sudans programme, with a number of very impressive women Sudanese academics proposing possible solutions to the conflict. In the course of his visit to our diocese, we enjoyed constructive discussions with the Archbishop of Canterbury who is very appreciative of our efforts for both Sudans. We, Salisbury, have earmarked an initial £10,000 to send for humanitarian aid once we have confidence in the banking arrangements. We will keep you updated through Grapevine of the needs of the people.
Our colleague John Poole in the Diocese of Leeds has been in touch with some of the bishops in Sudan and sends this insightful update:
Heavy fighting began again around Khartoum on Sunday evening, after a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire ended. During the ceasefire, there is said to have been a marked increase in the movement of civilians, however plumes of smoke continued to rise from burning premises, and looting continued in several neighbourhoods.
Al-Thawarah is one of the long-established townships in north Omdurman, a place where the Diocese of Leeds funded a school. Many people living in the neighbourhood are day labourers. Men often do petty jobs at markets or repair shops, and women often do the laundry and cleaning of people living in richer areas of the city. The continued fighting has led to less income if any and tiny cash reserves are gone. Radio Dabanga reports the price of a kilo of flour is now SDG 19,000 (over £25!), the insanely high price due to lack of fuel, inflated costs of transportation, and the destruction of markets. As they have no source of income anymore, some people have resorted to stealing to be able to get food. The security situation in many parts of Omdurman is rapidly worsening because of street gangs who are harassing and robbing people. The number of gangs increased in recent years because of the collapsing economy, but before the war police often intervened. Now police are nowhere to be seen, so robbers armed with knives or guns act with impunity
This week’s UN report confirms that the most affected locations are the capital, and Darfur (in the west). Of 1.4 million internally displaced people they say about a million are from the capital, and almost all the rest from Darfur. Major aid agencies have been active, with World Food Programme, Save the Children, Red Cross and Red Crescent reporting some successful deliveries of aid, but none of it reaches the ECS centres we are focussed on.
Archbishop Ezekiel is in Port Sudan, together with the Provincial Secretary, Musa Abujam, and the Provincial Accountant, Hindi Luka. Bishop Abdu of Port Sudan has provided an office space for Provincial operations. They have accessed the Provincial bank account at Bank of Khartoum and have been able to withdraw salaries for April/May, and are trying to transfer funding to the other dioceses.
Bishop Ismail of El Obeid writes: “I am in the diocese with my family. Some of the congregations have fled to South Kordofan (Nuba Mountains). Up to now we are safe, despite the fighting going on around the State. It is very, very difficult indeed, but by God’s grace we are living. Banks are closed, shops sometimes opened and closed, because of security reasons. There is no law at all. We are living in fear all the time, day and night. Most people are eating one meal only. People who fled from Khartoum most stop at the church centre before they find their relatives.
The continuous serious fighting in Elfashir and Elgenina; at present Elfashir is a little safer but in Elgenina it is tribal war, people are dying every day. Concerning the school in Elgenina the three classes are all destroyed. We thank God that at the school in Elfashir only windows and some sides of the wall have fallen plus windows destroyed because of the bullets fallen in the church compound. Please note that electricity is not always working and the internet is also very bad. Pray for us: El Obeid is surrounded by those who are fleeing from Khartoum.”
Bishop Hassan sent a brief text message: “Greetings from Kadugli to you in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are OK so far, but the situation is very, very difficult now. The movement of my people (SPLA?) moved yesterday and took control of some areas, and people are very afraid.”
Bishop Fajak wrote: “We are grateful to be still alive. The city of Omdurman is half destroyed. We are eight, including my mother, in a house in Ersaliya, Omdurman. I am still weak, recovering from chemo/radiotherapy, and am supposed to go back to Cairo for a check up at the end of August, if there is funding.”
A project for feeding the many seeking refuge in Wad Medani has been received – The Leeds Link is using two main questions on projects like this – what is the cost and what have you in hand. The project description answers the first, and we know that for Port Sudan and Wad Medani the answer to the second is “nothing.” Leeds Link has sent £10,000 to ECS and is sending more. The ABC's Anglican Communion Fund is sending £10,000. The rainy season is about to begin in Sudan (July-Sept) which will bring urgent need for material for waterproof shelter.
Prayer for Abp Ezekiel and the Sudans
God our Father,
whose son Jesus Christ wept over your people, because they knew not the way of peace and were as sheep without a shepherd; hear our prayer for the all the people of Sudan. Turn the hearts of their leaders to reconciliation and peace. Bless Archbishop Ezekiel, his bishops and clergy that they may have the strength and support to be true shepherds of your people in the midst of war. Strengthen those who seek to bring peace, who heal the sick and feed the starving and hasten the time when all nations will own your just and gentle rule and receive your gift of peace.