Catholic World News
Feature
[MAR. 02, 2000]
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* SUDANESE BISHOP SPEAKS TO HIS PERSECUTED PEOPLE

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SUDANESE BISHOP SPEAKS TO HIS PERSECUTED PEOPLE

[The statement that follows was issued by Bishop Macram Max Gassis
of El Obeid, Sudan, after he learned of a bombing raid in which the
Sudanese military destroyed a Catholic school, killing the students
and teachers. That raid was only the most recent atrocity in a long
civil war that pits the mostly Christian population of southern Sudan
against the Islamic government in Khartoum. Bishop Gassis issued his
statement during a visit to the United States, where he was seeking
to raise public awareness of the government's campaign against his
people in Sudan. This statement was made public by Sudan Relief &
Rescue, Inc., in Washington, DC.]

My beloved people of the Nuba Mountains, and Kauda in particular, I
greet you in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our consolation in our
tribulation, grief, and suffering.

Dearly beloved, the bombing of our Catholic school and the murder of
our children is an outrage against God and humanity. I am deeply
grieved, as are our friends here in the United States, where I sojourn
in order to bring our plight-- the unjust persecution that is inflicted
upon us-- to the attention of the world community.

Time and again, I have told the world that the National Islamic Front
in Khartoum is waging genocide against the Christians, Africans and
non-Arabs in order to establish a radical Islamic state. This terrible,
heart-breaking incident is yet another example that this war is a
religious and ethnic war launched by the regime of Khartoum and
aimed at the destruction of my people. We cannot bring back our 21
children, murdered in Kauda by the regime. Today there are many
Rachels in Kauda, mourning the loss of their children. But we must
insist that the international community act before it is too late.

I have appealed to the churches, particularly those in the United
States, to pray for us, to entreat God to grant us peace and justice.
And I assure you of this-- in many churches in the United States, our
brothers in Christ-- Catholics and Protestants-- are praying for us.

I have taken our petition to the government of the United States.
President Clinton issued a strong condemnation of the bombing.
Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, with whom I met for over one
hour, continues to condemn the actions of the regime against the
innocent people of Sudan, and against you in particular. Let us pray
that they will take resolute action to stop aerial bombardment in the
future.

Beloved, know that I did my utmost to tell the world of your plight
through the radio and television. I did not allow even one
opportunity to escape me. I hope you heard my interview that the
BBC, which was broadcast around the world and into the bush.

My children, never forget that God is with us. God hates injustice.
God loves all his children, especially the innocent young. God is
grieving for the barbaric attack upon you. Turn to him, and seek
comfort in his loving embrace. I wish to thank the German
Emergency Doctors who helped the wounded. They are a great gift to
us. As a sign of love and solidarity, our friends from Sudan Relief &
Rescue, our foundation in America, are visiting you to bring
consolation and assistance. When they return to the United States,
they will be your advocates. They will write and speak, and show the
photographs of this latest atrocity against you. They are also God's
gift to you. Pray for them.

Remember that our young children and their teacher are the victims
of hate, injustice, intolerance, and violence. These are the same things
that killed Jesus. But through Jesus' sacrifice, we have been
redeemed, we have been promised the heavenly paradise. So do not
despair. After each crucifixion of those who love Jesus, there is a
resurrection. And after your crucifixion in the Nuba Mountains by
the bombs of the Khartoum regime, you, too, will be resurrected. God
will not abandon us.  God will raise us from the dead. Pray that
people of good will throughout the world will awake to our tragedy
and offer themselves as God's instruments to help us.

Beloved, amidst your suffering, rejoice, for Christ died for us. Our
students and our teacher were martyrs to our faith. From the earliest
days of the Church, it is the witness of the martyrs-- who died for
Christ-- which sustained the Church. The killers in Khartoum think
they have damaged us, but, as St. Paul says, God will bring good from
evil. The Church will grow, your faith will deepen, and the martyred
children will channel untold grace to us from our Father in Heaven.

It is natural that we mourn the assassination of our innocent
children. Jesus himself mourned the death of his friend, Lazarus. But
we should mourn with hope and trust in Jesus. Our martyred
children are NOT dead. They are alive in heaven with Christ and all
the saints. They have joined our Blessed Bakhita and the Servant of
God, Marie Giuseppina Benvenuti, before the throne of God to
advocate for us. In the words of the entrance song of the mass of the
Holy Innocents, I say to you with every confidence: "These innocent
children were slain for Christ. They follow the spotless Lamb and
proclaim forever: Glory to you, God."

My suffering people, remember the words of our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, Son of God, in the Gospel of St. Matthew: "Happy are
those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy are those who
hunger and thirst after righteousness: they shall be satisfied. Happy
are those who are persecuted: theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Happy are you when men abuse you and persecute you and speak all
manner of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for
your reward is great in Heaven."

Beloved, we must suffer in the present time  But our suffering will
be united with Christ's on the cross, and we will offer it to God. As
the prayer of the Holy Innocents says: "Father, the Holy Innocents
offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ. May our
lives bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips."

Rest assured that you are in my heart, and constantly in my prayers.
I love you, and I long to be with you. Receive our American friends
as my ambassadors. They bring you my love and concern, and the
prayers of our friends around the world. I send you my blessing.
Console and strengthen one another, particularly the families of the
slain.  Have faith in God. I will be with you soon.

Macram Max Gassis
Bishop of El Obeid, Sudan