Southern Sudan decides its own future 9 January in referenda on whether to remain within a unified Sudan or to secede.
Caritas hopes that whatever the outcome, it succeeds in bringing healing to the nation and resolves differences that have led to so many years of conflict. However, Caritas is concerned about a tensions surrounding the referenda and is prepared for a rapid humanitarian response should conflict return.
With 1.5 million south Sudanese living in northern Sudan, there is also the prospect of a huge migration into the south, which would put a severe strain on the region.
Sudan has been a key focus of Caritas for decades, with the confederation of catholic agencies launching more appeals for it than any other country. Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “Our prayers and hopes are with the people of Sudan as they head into an historic moment, but one fraught with danger.
“Self-determination is a right and the choices made must be respected. All people of Sudan must look beyond the referenda to work for a just and peaceful future.
“Caritas will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Sudan. We will help the Catholic Church in Sudan to ensure they have the necessary resources to provide for the movement and resettlement of people.
“Caritas supporters have taken part in the 101 Days of Prayer campaign for Sudan, and we will continue to pray for peace.”
Caritas members are already working together in Sudan with the Catholic Church in Sudan through the Caritas Internationalis Emergency Preparedness Appeal to coordinate their humanitarian efforts.
National and local church staff have received emergency training, communities have been organised with the creation of early warning systems, and planning is in place to provide aid near hotspots for 100,000 people should it be required.
Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world and that poverty is particularly acute in southern Sudan. There is a lack of basic health and education infrastructure. Nine out of ten people live below the poverty line.
Regardless of the final outcome of the January referenda , northern and southern Sudan will face huge challenges that they will need the support of Caritas and the humanitarian community to overcome.