On Tuesday, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, “CEI”) announced a donation of one million euros “in favour of the people of South Sudan.” It is the fourth consecutive year that the Conference has dedicated a portion of the “eight per thousand” funds to providing emergency aid, as well as sustaining income generating activities, rebuilding, and supporting reconciliation processes throughout the country.
The so-called “eight per thousand” is a feature of Italian tax law whereby eight-tenths of a percent of Italian tax returns are distributed to organized religions or social assistance programs directed by the Italian State. The Church is the largest beneficiary of these funds, which she uses for worship, pastoral work, and charitable causes.
A press release from Caritas Italiana noted that South Sudan, eight years after declaring its independence, is still suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Seven million people lack food, and some regions face the risk of famine. More than 1.9 million people are internally displaced, while approximately 2.3 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, despite peace accords agreed in September, violence against civilians, by both militias and government forces, continues in various parts of the country.
Appeal of Pope Francis
In a meeting with South Sudanese leaders at the Vatican in April 2019, Pope Francis said a courageous commitment is necessary in order that “the fires of war might be extinguished once and for all”; that “political and ethnic divisions” might be overcome; and that the work of “building the nation” might begin.
In announcing the donation Caritas Italiana, in collaboration with the worldwide network of Caritas Internationalis and other organizations, joined the appeal of the Holy Father and the South Sudanese Bishops that the war might truly come to an end and that peace-building efforts might begin in earnest.