21/05/2012 11:30 am
It's ten months since the formation of the Republic of South Sudan. The south is no longer governed by Khartoum and the political and economic realities of separation have led to tension and conflict - particularly in the regions close to the border. South Kordofan, the Southern Blue Nile province and the oil-rich Abyei region are in danger of becoming a conflict-ridden 'buffer zone' between north and south.
Since June 2011, there has been heavy fighting in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, with reports of shelling and attacks on the indigenous population. With the aerial bombardment of the region, the international humanitarian organisations are struggling to get vital aid through.
The area falls in the Catholic Diocese of El Obeid and, in this podcast, we're joined by its diocesan bishop, the Most Rev Macram Max Gassis to discuss the situation.
Bishop Macram, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, visited the UK to lobby government ministers and MPs to raise awareness of the conflict and to ask for further intervention from the international community. Speaking of the Nuba Mountains, he said:
"Half a million people live there. They take refuge in caves or in the beds of dried rivers and that's how they survive. They eat the leaves - there is no more food. This is becoming another catastrophe."
The humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by the fact that there is no safe passage into the region for food and essential medical supplies. Bishop Macram explains the role of the Church on the front line:
"In the field the reality is that we, as the Catholic Church, are staying with the people. My doctors are there, the nuns are there, the priests are there, the catechists are there. We keep on working despite the danger."
So what can stop the conflict developing into an all-out conflict between north and south? Bishop Macram wants to see:
Despite the conflict, Bishop Macram sees the Nuba Mountains as a template for peace among diverse communities:
"In the Nuba Mountains, we have got to say that they are an example to the Sudanese and an example to the whole human family because the Nuba are the ones who live difference and unity together. In the Nuba family you have Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Africans of traditional belief - and they live in peace. This is an example to the whole world - even to South Sudan."
Bishop Macram closes with an appeal to the Catholic community in England and Wales to hold Sudan in prayer:
"We should pray that the Lord may avert this human tragedy and that the Sudan may be a beacon for peace and justice so that other nations may realise that even from war we can find a solution that brings us together."
The full podcast can be downloaded/played at the top right-hand corner of this page.
Duration: 9m 28s