Sudan church grows despite persecution
Against overwhelming odds, the Catholic Church in northern Sudan is continuing to grow, a local bishop says, with the Sudanese capital now boasting 121 priests ministering to 900,000 Christians.
Aid to the Church in Need reports that the figures, which were released by Bishop Daniel Marco Kur Adwok, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum, represent a huge increase in which the number of parishes has risen from four to 30 in just over 25 years.
The vast majority of the diocese's priests are now native Sudanese and yet when Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako took over as Archbishop of Khartoum in 1981 almost all his fellow priests were from elsewhere.
The Church's growth has continued despite harassment and violence from Islamists.
Hard-line Shari'a law has in effect institutionalised discrimination and oppression against Christians with restrictions on worship, a property tax for Christians, abuse of non-Muslim women and the threat of arrest on allegations of promoting "apostasy" - conversion away from Islam.
Bishop Adwok said Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted Christians, had been crucial to the growth of the Church in such difficult circumstances.
He said: "The position of our archdiocese is strong mainly due to the support we received from Aid to the Church in Need over the past few years."
His comments, made in Sudan during a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need, came after the charity gave a grant of over $360,000 to support Christian children in displacement camps outside Khartoum to help with much-needed education programs.
The "Save the Saveable" scheme now provides for 33,000 young people supported by 1,050 teachers.
Support from the charity also lies behind Bishop Adwok's plans for St Paul's Seminary, Khartoum, which he announced during the interview.
The bishop said he expected that within a year, the seminary's philosophy section, who make up a significant proportion of the seminary's 72 students for the priesthood, will be moved to their new base in Juba, the regional capital in the south of the country.
Somalia will collapse without international support: bishop
In another report, Catholic Online reports that the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Bishop Giorgio Bertin says that Somalia's fate is likely to be decided in the coming weeks.
"If Ethiopia withdraws its troops and there is no support mechanism put in place, the transitional government can't stand on its own. It will collapse," Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Dijbouti said, Caritas Internationalis reported.
"If the international community does not intervene, there is a real risk that Somalia could go back to the worst violence and clan warfare of 1991," Bishop Bertin said, alluding to the violence that has plagued Somalia since warlords ousted former Supreme President Mohamed Siad Barre in that year.
"We need an African or United Nations force, supported by the Europeans and the North Americans, in place to fill the void once the Ethiopians leave," he said.
"The international community too must avoid acting for hidden interests. We all need to act in interest of a true Somali nation, to ensure its success."
How the Church in Sudan is growing (Aid to Church News, Press Release, 15/1/07)
Somalia will collapse without int'l support that must arrive, Vatican administrator states (Catholic Online, 15/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sudan: A cry for hope from the desert (Aid to Church in Need)
Time to end scandal of hunger, Benedict says (CathNews, 9/1/07)
Stop Darfur violence, Holy See tells UN (14/12/06)
Sudan cardinal evaluates peacemaker's legacy (CathNews, 3/8/05)
Praying Christians flogged and imprisoned in Sudan (24/4/01)
16 Jan 2007