.- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a call for prayers and a special collection in parishes for the people suffering persecution and deprivation in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Bishop Wilton D. Gregory has asked that special prayers be offered Aug. 22, and that parishes take up a special collection at a convenient time. The funds would be forwarded to Catholic Relief Services, which is currently working with the Church in Sudan to try meet the needs of the people. However, more assistance is needed, he said.
The bishop said Catholic Relief Services would ensure that all funds go to the Sudanese people who are most in need.
World leaders have called the current situation in Sudan the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” While the conflict has been on for decades, government-backed Arab militias there, known as the "Janjaweed," have killed an estimated 30,000 Black Africans in the Darfur region in the last 17 months.
Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the USCCB International Policy Committee, recently traveled to the Darfur region to assess firsthand the dire humanitarian situation. He visited camps, where tens of thousands of people were huddled under plastic sheets for protection against the driving rains and wind.
The people of Darfur told Bishop Ricard how armed groups rode into their villages, killed family members, and drove people from their homes and lands.
"We pray for the intercession of St. Bakhita, native of Darfur and the first Sudanese saint, that the conflict might end and the rights and dignity of each and every person might be respected," said Bishop Gregory.
In related news, a broad coalition of religious, human rights, and humanitarian organizations will hold a "Day of Conscience" for Sudan, Aug. 25.