Australia can do more, Sudanese bishop says

On his first visit to Australia, Sudanese Bishop Joseph Abangite Gasi expressed his gratitude for humanitarian support to refugees but also told Australians that "you can do more".

The Southern Cross reports that Bishop Gasi, who is the first Sudanese bishop to visit Australia, says there is also a desperate need for South Australian Catholics to visit Sudan and teach new skills to a population ravaged by more than 20 years of war and famine.

The 79-year-old Bishop of Tombura-Yambio, southern Sudan, was recently in Adelaide to thank Australians for their ongoing humanitarian support.

His gratitude was tempered by a call for more aid from countries where material wealth was at levels "unimaginable" to his people.

"Seeing what I have seen in Australia, you can do more - in fact, I would expect more definitely," Bishop Gasi said.

"Your roads are all paved and there are lights everywhere and we have no electricity, no clean water, not to mention roads.

"I also came to ask for volunteers to come to my diocese. When they send money, we worry it will fall into the wrong hands, so send people.

"We need moral support to continue with the peace process and the reconciliation, all the things that have happened we should remember so they don't happen again."

Bishop Gasi met with members of Adelaide's thriving Sudanese community during his stay and said Mass at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral.

"We were able to meet them and pray with them. We told them all the good news from home, that home is improving," he said.

"There are some little breakdowns, violence or tribal clashes, but the churches and the government are working hard to cool down this situation."

The Sudanese community is the fastest-growing ethnic group nationally.

More than 14,000 Sudanese people have been granted humanitarian visas to enter Australia in the last decade, two-thirds of those arriving since 2005.

Bishop Gasi said while he had plenty of problems in his desperately poor diocese, low Mass turnouts and a shortage of priests were not among them.

Keeping the faith (Southern Cross, 1/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Adelaide archdiocese
Bishop Joseph Gasi (Catholic Hierarchy)
Tombura-Yambio diocese (Giga-Catholic)
Bishop Joseph Abangite Gasi (African Synod, 1994)

Sudanese refugee cuts "abominable": Sydney bishop (CathNews, 8/2/07)
Sudan church grows despite persecution (CathNews, 16/1/07)
Church leaders petition Tamworth over refugee decision (CathNews, 20/12/06)
International Caritas call to help Sudanese Refugees (CathNews, 6/4/04)

3 Jul 2007