Bishop Gassis and the people of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
If you are unaware of the tragic situation occurring in the Nuba Mountain Region of Sudan, you are not alone. This New York Times article is one of the only major reports to come out of the region in recent months, though the Government in Khartoum is bombing its own civilians living in this region almost every single day.
Our partner Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of over 160 Catholic development and relief agencies, invited Bishop Emeritus Macram Max Gassis of the Diocese of EI Obeid to the UN to speak about the struggles of his people.
Bishop Gassis was reluctant to refer to President Al-Bashir and the government in Khartoum as the “government.” Khartoum drops barrel bombs on civilians cowering in fox holes and caves every single day in the name of enforcing total Islamization of Sudan, yet the international community still recognizes this as a legitimate government and the media is paying no attention to this reign of terror. The Nuba Mountains region is extremely religiously diverse, yet the many different tribes and religions have learned to live peacefully together. Bishop Gassis has called them “an example for all of Africa,” yet Al-Bashir wants them eliminated. “God created the world with many different types of people,” Bishop Gassis said, “who are we to say we are better than God?”
Bishop Gassis says he and his people are forgotten. It is next to impossible for these people to receive international humanitarian aid, as the Sudanese government has prevented all international aid organizations from accessing the country, especially the Nuba Mountains. This means children have gone years without vaccinations causing a widespread outbreak in measles. Children are starving, and are barely receiving an education with what little school supplies they have left. Yet these schools come equipped with foxholes for the children. The nuns in the Catholic schools have learned to identify the sound a plane makes when bombs are dropped to usher the children into the holes. This is daily life.
Yet Bishop Gassis has not given up on his people. They have tried to drive aid in through South Sudan, only to have all their supplies stolen by the South Sudanese Army. They have tried to air drop supplies (costing $25k per flight) only to be chased out of the air by Sudanese bomber jets. All to provide food and medicine for people simply trying to live.
What the bishop asked of us was to spread the word, and get our governments, churches, and organizations to ask the Sudanese to STOP the bombing of civilians. He mentioned that endangered African elephants are currently receiving more sympathy than the slaughtered civilians of Sudan. The International Community has been far too lax in its response to this tragedy, and it is time to seek justice for Bishop Gassis’s people of the Nuba Mountains.
Presbyterians have a long and rich history of ministry with the people of Sudan and South Sudan. The Sudan Advocacy Action Forum also helps Presbyterians engage with our sisters and brothers in Christ in Sudan and South Sudan.