The conflict of 2013 in South Sudan was so violent that all our Mill Hill Missionaries who were working in Malakal diocese South Sudan had to suddenly leave. Some of the members had such horrific experiences that they might never think of going back to South Sudan even for a visit. Although a peace agreement was signed between the warring parties with on the one side the government of South Sudan and on the other side the group that calls themselves South Sudan Liberation in Opposition (SPLM-IO), the conflict has continued.
Many people have died, some are internally displaced, others have run as refugees to neighbouring countries like Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.
The security in the city of Juba is generally good, but the same can’t be said for the country side. Juba is generally quiet, calm and peaceful. People can afford to travel all the time including at night time although the majority are cautious. On the side of travelling in and out of the country, there are regular commercial and United Nation flights in and out of Juba, making travelling easy.
The food situation in the country was bad partly due to the long drought and the conflict, but the situation has eased with the return of the rains. Although the rains have returned only limited cultivation is taking place. It is only in those places around the country where relative peace reigns that cultivation is taking place. The coming of the rains makes the vegetation green, excessive heat is down but it is still humid on the whole.
The economy of the country is in a mess with inflation running at 800%. South Sudan has the second largest oil reserves in Africa. The country relies heavily on oil export as a major source of foreign exchange. The level of oil output has gone down due to the conflict but the slump in international oil prices also means that the government revenue has dropped dramatically. The shortage of cash has not only hit the government who cannot pay salaries to the civil servants, but all sectors of development. The prices of goods have rocketed and refined fuel is in short supply, people have to line up for petrol and diesel and the only access road to Juba from Uganda is not secure. This means that both people and goods coming by road have to be transported to Juba protected by army convoys.
Although the conflict evicted Mill Hill missionaries from Malakal, we are now back to South Sudan, not to Malakal diocese as security is still unpredictable, but to Juba archdiocese.
Ben Stopel mhm and Michael Ochwo mhm came to Juba in February – March 2017 on a fact finding mission and after discussions with Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro and considering security situation, were offered to minister to the chapel of Holy Rosary Buluk which is part of the St. Joseph’ s parish, Juba. The idea is to make Holy Rosary Bukuk into a parish sometime in the near future. The Holy Rosary chapel exists 28 years and it has grown over time in numbers especially due to the increase of workers from Uganda and Kenya, but also because of the conflict factor that pushed the local people from rural areas to the city.
Michael Ochwo mhm was warmly welcomed by the chapel council and the Christian community on the 4th of June 2017 when he attended all the three masses that are celebrated at Holy Rosary on Sunday’s. The people have been asking for a fully fledged parish for a while and with the coming of the Mill Hill missionaries, they now see their hopes and aspirations of a parish become a reality. Due to the influence of Kenyan’s and Uganda’s, this is the only chapel in the archdiocese of Juba that seems to have a well-structured small Christian communities (SCC). The youth are already organized with their leaders, Sunday school goes on every Sunday, children come for catechism in the afternoon on weekdays, and the chapel choir is one of the best choirs in the diocese.
They are a lively, active and participative community.
The church building has a capacity of over 700 people, but there is as yet no presbytery. So the pioneer Mill Hill missionaries in Juba are working together with the chapel council and the chapel development team to renovate some few existing rooms around the church compound and use them as residence. All that is being done bearing in mind the security situation. The tentative date of making the Holy Rosary into a parish is 7th October 2017.
I am proud to be one of the pioneer Mill Hiller in the archdiocese of Juba and when Emmanuel Omollo mhm comes to join me, I am very sure we are going to reinforce and build a solid Christian community at the Holy Rosary. We shall endevour to build bridges of reconciliation in a country that has experienced conflict for over five dacades. Our prime focus will be pastoral care, but we shall also be involved in any social development activities that this country so badly needs. There are many needs for social development such as schools, health centres, technical institutions, youth empowerment etc. We shall do whatever we can based on our motto: Amare et servire – to love and to serve.
Michael Ochwo mhm