Called to be Missionaries
Using the occasion of the Jubilee for Missions Pope John Paul II called on "all the people of God" to embrace the 3rd millennium as a "courageous new beginning for a new missionary season." His message came at an appropriate time. On October 22nd Bishop Macram Gassis of the Sudan shared with the diocese through a talk to the Brent Society the tragic story of his suffering flock. "Don't pity us," the bishop said as he described the extreme poverty of his people, who live without electricity, running water, or even the basic necessities of life. "We don't ask you to take our cross. Be like Symon of Cyrene and tilt the cross for us, just a little bit."
The worst cross the people must carry is persecution and martyrdom. The Muslim fundamentalist regime in Khartoum has persecuted the Church since coming to power: confiscating schools, passing draconian laws to suppress Christianity, and bombing Churches, schools, and other nonmilitary targets. Bishop Gassis said the people are praying their Churches will not be bombed on Christmas Day as they were last year. Ironically, the day after the bishop spoke news reports told of warplanes dropping 23 bombs on the village of Nimule in Southern Sudan, destroying a preschool and some homes. Fortunately no one was killed. "It was a direct hit on the nursery but the children weren't there because it was Sunday," Dan Eiffe of Norwegian People's Aid said. "The people had heard the planes coming and had dived into their shelters."
According to Sudan Relief and Rescue, Inc., the charity formed to assist Bishop Gassis, "more Sudanese have been murdered than all the victims in Bosnia, Kosova, and Rwanda combined." The Sudan government supports slavery and encourages starvation by refusing relief flights to some areas. The only sign of hope for many is the Church. May our readers exercise the Pope's call to be missionaries by supporting Sudan Relief and drawing the attention of others to this serious situation. Visit the bishop's webpage at www.petersvoice.org/bishop.htm for more information. Donations may be sent to Sudan Relief and Rescue, P.O. Box 1877, Washington, DC 20013-1877.