A bishop from Chad has highlighted the desperate plight of more than 100,000 refugees flooding into his region of the country from neighbouring war-torn Sudan.
Speaking on a visit to the international project headquarters of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Philippe Abbo Chen of Mongo, eastern Chad, described the huge challenge of trying to support families arriving “with no resources whatsoever”.
Nearly four million people have fled their homes since violence in Sudan erupted in April between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Force, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Bishop Chen said that most of the refugees are “children, the elderly and women” and living in extreme poverty.
He said: “I saw one group remove their veils and attach them to an emaciated tree to get some shade.”
The bishop added: “We are doing what we can to help them, with the resources that we have, but they are limited.
“What is more, we have our own problems with age-old internal conflicts between farmers and pastoral nomads.”
The bishop explained that conflicts often arise when cattle roaming freely enter private fields and damage crops.
Bishop Chen is occasionally called to intervene in disputes between farmers and herders, which frequently escalate into violent confrontations involving firearms.
The bishop said: “The population of Chad is also increasing, which leads to struggles over resources, made worse by the proliferation of firearms.
“The simplest of arguments can escalate very quickly when AK47s are involved.”
He expressed concerns about the future of the country where “the education system is falling apart” and “food prices have tripled”.
“In this context, our Church serves as a refuge.”
He highlighted that his parishioners are sometimes “afraid to show their faith in certain environments”, but generally Christians in Muslim-majority Chad “are perfectly free to live out our faith”.
He concluded: “We have a vibrant Church. Our community is only a small minority, in an immense territory, but it has a unique evangelising mission. We have hundreds of baptisms every year.
“I would like to thank ACN, which helped cover the educational costs of two seminarians.”
With thanks to Sylvain Dorient