Despite severe poverty in Sudan, Christian children are being supported by the Church in their faith and education.
Fr Daniele Castura, an Italian priest living in Sudan for more than 10 years, spoke to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need about working with the people. He said: “It is an extremely difficult pastoral field we work in here as priests.”
In Sudan, 90 percent are Sunni Muslims but those from the Nuba Mountains are Christians. Acknowledging the hardships his displaced parishioners endure because of poverty, Fr Daniele said: “They are totally uprooted people. The parishioners we are dealing with here are for the most part former country dwellers from the Nuba Mountains in the south of Sudan.” Fr Daniele added: “Their lives there were marked by the customs and traditions of their villages. But here, far from their homeland, they are completely lost.”
Having once lived as cattle farmers, the men now struggle to provide for their families as day labourers, Fr Daniele said: “Many of them simply drift around idly when they don‘t have any work. In their traditional view of themselves, they are herders and warriors.” He added: “But since there is no fighting and no herding to be done here, all the work falls on the shoulders of the womenfolk.”
in spite of their poverty, God loves them – each individual
Fr Daniele’s focus is developing the faith of every Christian in his parish. He said: “I want to show people, above all in spite of their poverty, that God loves them – and indeed each of them individually.” He has cause for hope as “the people come in large numbers to church. On Sundays our church is full.” He said: “It is extremely important that the church should be a beautiful and worthy place. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in the lives of these people, since they otherwise know only their own poverty-stricken huts and homes.”
without education the children will have no chance
But he is concerned about the children’s educational and emotional development. He said: “Many of the children would spend the whole day roaming around the streets if they didn‘t come to us in school. Their parents show little concern for them. Attention, and even tenderness, is something most of them have never experienced, and above all not from their fathers.” He added: “[W]e scarcely have money for teachers and books, and nor do our pupils either… However modest our means are here, without education the children will have no chance of a better life.”
Fr Daniele finally spoke about the growth of schools in the Muslim-majority capital. He said: “Our schools gain us acceptance among the majority Muslim community, and above all with the state. It is strongly Islamic, and yet because of the rapid population growth, the number of people moving into the towns and the limited public resources [mean] it is overstretched and unable to provide enough schools. Hence it is happy to see the Church involved.” He added: “As a Church we maintain almost 20 public schools in Khartoum city alone, and permission to build schools – unlike for churches – is something that is always granted to us.”
ACN is continuing to help Catholic schools in Sudan, including Saint Kizto School in Dar El Salam in the north of Khartoum where Fr Daniele works with faithful.
Article first published in The Portal http://www.portalmag.co.uk/