‘Killers of Catholic nuns well-known’

‘Killers of Catholic nuns well-known’
Catholic Archbishop of Juba Stephen Ameyu Martin. [Photo: Courtesy]

Catholic Archbishop of Juba Stephen Ameyu Martin has said the attackers who killed two spiritual sisters along Nimule road are known and should not be referred to as ‘unknown gunmen’.

“I reject the jargon of the ‘unknown’ because the people who killed the sisters are known by some of us in a remote distance. If we say they are unknown gunmen [then] we [are condoning the act of covering them],” he said, at a requiem mass at St Theresa Cathedral Kator last Friday.

Ameyu said the church is still coming to terms with the brutal killing of the innocent nuns, and that it would take some time to heal.

Archbishop Ameyu said Juba-Nimule road has been risky due to lives that have been lost whenever criminals lay ambush on travellers.

“Unknown gunmen must not be unknown be because they are known by God with the number of their rifles and they are known by some of us,” he stated.

According to another senior laity the brutal killing of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba is an act of terror.

“It was a pre-empted attack and it was not an act of accident. It was an act in my view to stop people from returning home and it was also to discourage the church from pursuing its noble mission,” she said.

‘Act of terror’

She made the statement while addressing the mourners at St Theresa Cathedral after a requiem for Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba on Friday.

She said the church is one of the critical agencies of social change in society and that is why some people are alarmed to terrorise the church and stop evangelism.

“What has happened is indeed a testimony that the work of the church in the country is not over instead it is the beginning,” she stated.

She urged the government to ensure the perpetrators are apprehended and brought to justice.

The two nuns are part of five people who were murdered along Nimule-Juba road when gunmen attacked a convoy of cars ferrying pilgrims after attending the centenary celebration in Loa Parish, Torit, on August 16.

Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba were South Sudanese members and Sisters of the Sacred Heart in the Juba Archdiocese. They were in a bus returning to Juba with seven sisters and five men when the tragedy struck.

According to a statement issued by Sr. Alice Jurugo Drajea, Superior General of the congregation, the bus left at 7:30 a.m. and was barely an hour into the trip when armed men ambushed the bus and started spraying it with bullets.

“The driver ordered the men on the bus to flee, thinking that the gunmen would spare the sisters. Four of the sisters left the bus with the men. The gunmen followed and shot Abut and Roba,” the statement said.

“Three elderly sisters remained in the bus, and the gunmen intended to burn them in the bus as they did with a small car in front of the bus,” Drajea said in the statement. “Thank God, they did [not] have neither a lighter nor petrol to start the fire.”

The two sisters were buried on Aug. 20 at the Rejaf mission cemetery.

Abut had served as the superior general of the order from 2006 to 2018. She was head of the order’s Usratuna Primary School.

Sr. Roba was from the Yei Diocese in Central Equatoria and was a nurse who served for many years in Loa Parish in the Torit Diocese, Juba Sacred Heart Health Centre and Alshaba Children’s hospital in Juba. She was a tutor at the Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau.

This is not the first time the Catholic clerics have been attacked in the country. In April 2021, Fr. Christian Carlassare, the bishop-elect of Rumbek Catholic Diocese was shot and wounded on both legs at his residence at the Diocese when two gunmen attacked him at night leading to the arrest of multiple local clerics and some church officials.

In November 2018, Fr. Victor Luke Odhiambo, a Kenyan Jesuit priest was shot dead in the defunct Gok State at night when a group of armed men stormed the compound where the priest resides.

Fr. Victor, 62, was the director of the Teacher’s Training Centre run by the Catholic Church in Gok that is now become part of Lakes State.