A number of practical and bureaucratic obstacles that had delayed the start of the rescue mission have been overcome, enabling the first of 12 chartered flights to depart from Khartoum for Juba. The second and third flights are scheduled for tomorrow, with more to be arranged in the days and weeks ahead.
Church and community leaders have identified the most needy and vulnerable Christians among the hundreds of thousands of Southerners trapped in Khartoum. We are flying approximately 800 women, around two-thirds of whom are widows, and 1,200 children to Juba. The cost per person is £175 (€220, US$275, AU$260, NZ$345).
They will be welcomed at temporary reception facilities set up by the South Sudanese government before moving on to extended family connections around the country. The Church in South Sudan is ready to help with their practical needs.
Endangered and impoverished
Christians of Southern origin remaining in Sudan are extremely vulnerable. They were stripped of their citizenship after the South voted to secede and were given a deadline to leave. President Omar al-Bashir has made it very clear that they are not welcome, repeatedly declaring his intention to make the country’s next constitution 100% Islamic and strengthen sharia law.
Many have made their own way to South Sudan, but hundreds of thousands remain trapped in a country that is increasingly hostile to their presence, and the Sudanese government has closed the border to prevent any more travelling to South Sudan by the river Nile.
Their vulnerability has intensified over the last week as violent Islamic protests against the film Innocence of Muslims rocked Sudan; several Western embassies in Khartoum have been attacked and threats made against Christians in the city.
As well as facing danger, the impoverished Southern Christians have been living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters on the outskirts of the capital for many months.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
We are extremely thankful to the Lord that this rescue mission is now underway. He has gone before us and prepared the way, removing obstacles one by one. These vulnerable Christian women and children, who have endured so much hardship and suffering, can now look forward to beginning a new life in South Sudan.
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Source: Barnabas Aid