An update on the situation in our link diocese of Sudan from Canon Ian Woodward.
The conflict in Sudan is approaching it’s third week of devastation particularly in Khartoum and in Darfur. It was encouraging that UK forces were able to extract some 2,000 UK citizens and many Sudanese medics who work in the NHS in the UK and who were in Sudan celebrating the Eid holiday with families and friends after Ramadan. There are glimmers of hope that the extending ceasefires might lead to a recognition by the leaders of the need for peace, though there are still sporadic attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces on the Rapid Support Force in Khartoum including around the Anglican cathedral where the RSF is located. Some reports suggest the RSF have been occupying the Cathedral compound and destroying some of the facilities and infrastructure.
We dread to think what Archbishop Ezekiel may find if and when he is able to return. He and his family and friends are still taking refuge out of the city centre. It has been possible to keep in touch with him by phone as the internet is unreliable, but we have conducted interviews broadcast on the BBC and many have said how good it was to hear his voice over the sound of gunfire in Khartoum. Bishop Stephen and the Archbishop of Canterbury have also had a three-way conversation with Archbishop Ezekiel – it is so important to be able to do this and for our brothers and sisters there to know they are not forgotten.
The ‘Juba Agreement’ chaired by President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan was supposed to deliver peace and a civilian government within the next two years or so but unpredictably, the RSF and the SAF leaders had other ideas.
One of our major concerns is the effect of this conflict on the whole Horn of Africa region and particularly South Sudan. In conversation with Ambassador Agnes Oswaha, Juba’s envoy to London, she expressed her worries for the tens of thousands seeking refuge in her country. Twelve receiving stations are being set up across the long border between the two Sudans from Upper Nile in the east to the Bahr el Gazals in the west. She is hoping that given the many close family relationships that still exist across the border, South Sudanese families will be generous and hospitable to those seeking safety. To support this influx, she urges the UN/World Food Programme to help with food supplies to South Sudan to avoid greater famines. We are at the early stages of discussions with Christian Aid about how humanitarian relief might be delivered and similarly, working with our colleagues in the Diocese of Leeds about how support can be provided once conditions in Sudan permit this. We continue to engage with our own government and Parliament to sustain our national commitment.