SUDAN: Priest and Sisters caring for malnourished IDPs amid ‘unimaginable destruction’

Father Jacob Thelekkadan with the Salesian Sisters in Shajara, Sudan. (© Father Jacob Thelekkadan)
Father Jacob Thelekkadan with the Salesian Sisters in Shajara, Sudan. (© Father Jacob Thelekkadan)

A priest is helping Sisters care for hungry and traumatised internal refugees who have fled their homes because of the ongoing civil war in Sudan.

Father Jacob Thelekkadan is helping the local Salesian Sisters care for about 80 IDPs (internally displaced people) sheltering at the Sisters’ Dar Mariam residence in Shajara, four miles outside Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

He told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the area has been ravaged by a “tragic and unfortunate war” which broke out in April 2023 and has led to “massive displacement of people, heavy casualties, pitiable and unimaginable destruction”.

Father Thelekkadan, director of St Joseph’s Vocational Training Centre in Khartoum said that the fighting has caused “psychological and physical trauma”, as well as “fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness and sickness in the hearts and lives of people” in the region.

The Indian-born Salesian priest added that everyone is “malnourished and weak”, especially the children, but he and the Sisters are doing their best to provide food even though it is scarce.

He explained: “Our daily food is porridge made from flour or lentils, or kisra, a kind of pancake made of shorghum [a grain local to the region], without the availability of any vegetables, including onions and potatoes, without any type of fruit, without meat or eggs.”

The priest said it is increasingly difficult to obtain fuel for the generator which is essential for providing electricity and operating the water pump.

He added that although temperatures can exceed 110°F (43°C), they only have access to water for two hours a day.

He highlighted that Dar Mariam has often been caught in the crossfire, and bombs have exploded in the building on at least three occasions, destroying rooms and wounding people inside.

Father Thelekkadan said all residents confined themselves to the house because of the constant threat of sniper fire and bombings – but some volunteers occasionally venture out to collect firewood.

He added that many IDPs have strengthened their relationship with God in the midst of the destruction, which “has brought a serene and peaceful atmosphere…

“They participate daily in the morning Eucharist, the Rosary service and the half-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the recitation of the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy in the evening.”

Father Thelekkadan stressed: “Though suffering on many accounts, in Dar Mariam there reigns an atmosphere of peace, joy, contentment and cheerfulness.”

He concluded: “Almighty God, thanks a million for what you are to us in Dar Mariam.

“May your will and your Glory always prevail!”


With thanks to Filipe d’Avillez