Nairobi, Monday, 19 November, 2018
The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa and Madagascar Condemn the Brutal Murder of Fr. Victor-Luke Odhiambo, SJ – a Jesuit Priest in Cueibet, South Sudan – and call for Justice, Reconciliation, Peace and a Complete Disarmament in South Sudan
We, the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar, strongly condemn the horrific murder of Fr. Victor-Luke Ohdiambo SJ, a Jesuit priest from Kenya, on 15 November 2018, in Cueibet, South Sudan. Our hearts go out to the family of Fr. Odhiambo, praying that the Risen Christ console them.
Fr. Odhiambo worked in war-torn South Sudan for over ten years. He was gunned down by unknown assailants who stormed the Jesuit Community. At the time of death, Fr. Odhiambo was the Principal of Mazzolari Teachers’ College in Cueibet and Acting Superior of the Community. He had been a Jesuit for 40 years. Fr. Odhiambo will be buried today in Cueibet, on the grounds of the College, where he gave his life in service to Christ’s mission.
Fr. Odhiambo dedicated his life to the service of the people of God through education. He developed close mentoring and supportive relationship with his students who trusted and respected him. He was a servant of Christ’s mission, giving life and hope to the hopeless, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. In his message of condolence to the Jesuits in Eastern Africa, Father General Arturo Sosa SJ, recognized Fr. Odhiambo as “a very courageous man, intelligent, caring, creative administrator and above all a believer in the value of education. He was not afraid of venturing into the unknown even into the most dangerous of places once he was convinced it was the Lord’s mission.”
South Sudan has known conflicts for many years and remains the most fragile state in the world. Jesuits and their partners in mission have worked in Wau, Kajokeji, Tabura-Yambio, Lobone, Nimule, Yei, Maban, Rumbek, Cueibet and Juba, and several of them have been attacked multiple times, forced to abandon a school in Wau at the peak of the war, ambushed by armed gangs, kidnapped, and witnessed violent attacks on innocent South Sudanese. The Jesuit General Congregation 36 decried the toll of conflict and violence in places like South Sudan, stating: “Since the last General Congregation, we have seen situations of heart-breaking conflict in many parts of the world. The sad litany includes Syria and South Sudan, Colombia and the Great Lakes region of Africa, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq and so many other places. There has been devastating loss of life and massive displacement of peoples. These conflicts have a global reach. Those who serve at the frontline have been especially affected” (“Witnesses of Friendship and Reconciliation: A message and a prayer for Jesuits living in zones of war and conflict”). In all these situations, Jesuits have been unwavering in their solidarity with the local church and the people of South Sudan.
According to the United Nations and its agencies, the combination of armed conflict, inter-communal violence, disease outbreaks and economic crisis has killed over 50,000 civilians, displaced one in every four South Sudanese, made over 2 million refugees and impeded the country’s progress since independence in 2011. Presently, 7.5 million South Sudanese urgently need humanitarian assistance and protection.
The violence in South Sudan is largely attributed to antagonistic competition for power, inter-clan rivalry enshrined in a revenge culture and, most importantly, proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Revenge killings or what some people understand as blood compensation has created unending cycle of violence that has produced millions of orphans and widows who are also looking for an opportunity to revenge.
To address the protracted situation in South Sudan, we, the Jesuits in Africa,
In fidelity to our mission of reconciliation and justice, we renew our commitment to continue collaboration with the local church and all people of goodwill for the advancement of the reign of God through our ministries and works in South Sudan.
Rev. Joseph O. Afulo SJ
Provincial of Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus
Rev. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator SJ
President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar