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Sat May 6, 2017, 09:08 AM


Hungry, scared South Sudanese stay in cathedral compound for protection

A mother and her children eat a meal at a camp for internally displaced persons on the grounds of St. Mary Catholic Cathedral April 24 in Wau, South Sudan. Drought and armed conflict have pushed tens of thousands of Wau-area residents out of their homes, away from their farms and unable to adequately feed themselves. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Paul Jeffrey
Catholic News Service | May. 6, 2017

WAU, SOUTH SUDAN Rita Williams slept under a tree beside St. Mary Catholic Cathedral, her three hungry children beside her. Around them, as many as 16,000 other displaced people filled the cathedral compound, hoping the church would keep them safe as their country spirals into greater violence.

"I've been here two weeks, since the soldiers chased us out of our house and burned it," she said April 26. "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."

When civil war ripped apart South Sudan's fragile democracy in 2013, residents of this city in the country's northwest watched the violence from afar, seemingly unconcerned that the politically manipulated ethnic violence would spread here. And then it did, and the victims ran for the city's churches.

"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 that Jesus is present. They wanted to die in the church rather than die in their homes," said Father Germano Bernardo, a priest in Wau.


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