South Sudan: In Rumbek Diocese, the question all are asking: Why?

Following the shooting and wounding of the Bishop-elect of Rumbek Diocese, authorities have placed all officials and workers at the Bishop’s residence and diocesan office, including clergy, under investigations.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican News

Catholics in South Sudan, particularly those of the Diocese of Rumbek, have expressed utmost shock and disbelief at the news of an attack on the Rumbek Diocese’s Bishop-elect, Fr Christian Carlassare, MCCJ.

Vatican News English Africa Collaborator Fr. Mbikoyezu Gbemboyo John, in an update from Juba, South Sudan, said many in the Diocese of Rumbek were indeed happy to finally have a Bishop after ten years.

According to Fr. Mbikoyezu, the attack on the newly elected Bishop of a diocese that had been without one for ten years has shocked the country and beyond -but more especially the people of Rumbek. All diocesan officials and workers, including members of the clergy, are being investigated.

We were gearing-up for an episcopal ordination

The former Diocesan Coordinator of Rumbek Catholic Diocese, Father John Mathiang, who officially welcomed Fr Carlassare to the Diocese on 15 April, condemned the attack on the Bishop-elect. He said the Diocese was already gearing itself for the episcopal ordination set for the feast of Pentecost on 23 May.

No details yet on the shooters or their motives

There are no new details yet on the identity of the armed men and the reason behind the attack on Fr. Carlassare. South Sudan’s Governor of Lakes State, Makur Kulang Liei, has condemned the attack on Fr Christian Carlassare and has called for calm while promising thorough investigations. Reports from Rumbek indicate that a preliminary investigation is already underway. It includes all those who work in and around the residence and office of the Bishop of Rumbek, including members of the clergy.

Proliferation of small arms and light weapons

The shooting of the new Bishop-elect has brought back memories of a similar incident in the Diocese of Rumbek. On 15 November 2018, A Kenyan Jesuit priest, Fr. Victor-Luke Odhiambo, the Principal of Mazzolari Teachers’ College in Cueibet, South Sudan, was gunned down assailants at his residence. Reacting to the killing of Odhiambo, Jesuit Provincial of the Eastern Africa Province, Fr Joseph Afulo condemned the proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons in South Sudan. Fr. Afulo appealed to Western governments and private individuals to join hands in calling for an end to the sale of these arms in South Sudan.

Solidarity from priests and laity

South Sudan’s Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu and Msgr Mark Kadima, the Chargé d’affaires in the Apostolic Nunciature of South Sudan, led several priests, the religious and Catholic faithful in showing solidarity to the Bishop-elect, Carlassare. When he arrived at Juba International Airport, Monday, they met the Bishop-elect on his way to Nairobi for treatment. Local medics in Rumbek said the injuries of the Bishop-elect were non-life-threatening.

President Kiir: An expeditious investigation

In the meantime, a communique signed by the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Manyardit, called for quick investigations into the shooting of Fr Carlassare. President Salva Kiir condemned attacks on the clergy. “I call upon authorities in Lakes State to carry out an expeditious investigation that will lead to lawful apprehension and prosecution of criminals who perpetrated this crime,” the president said.