Cardinal Blesses Sudan Relief Fund Rescue Boat

Vessel Symbolizes Peace and Hope in Wake of Strife

On February 8, this year’s International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Vatican Cardinal Michael Czerny pronounced a blessing over the Saint Josephine Bakhita and its mission – a rescue boat transporting refugees of Sudan’s war to safety inside South Sudan’s borders.

Since the war began, with the help of our donors, Sudan Relief Fund has been partnering with humanitarian organization, Caritas, and the Diocese of Malakal to fund transportation costs for the boat and provide essential supplies to families fleeing the violence as they arrive in Malakal, South Sudan. 

The blessing was given during the celebration of Mass at the end of the Cardinal’s visit to South Sudan from February 2nd to February 9. 

The occasion marked an opportunity to focus on the ideals of compassion and brotherhood, a message standing in stark contrast to the war that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to South Sudan – as well as pointing to ongoing division that’s plagued the young nation of South Sudan itself.

Christened after Josephine Margaret Bakhita – the patron saint of South Sudan, who is also recognized as the patron saint for slaves and victims of human trafficking – the boat honors St. Bakhita’s legacy of overcoming hardship and responding to oppressors with forgiveness and grace.

The newly constructed vessel, built from a combination of wood and iron, will continue to transport the backlog of stranded refugees desperate to escape Sudan’s war zone – a number that keeps growing daily. Since war broke out last April, the rescue boat has carried thousands of Sudanese refugees on the three-day journey down the river to South Sudan’s northern  border.

Said Cardinal Czerny about the St. Bakhita, “It will be a boat that leaves the storm of conflict, violence, hatred, and vengeance behind, and sails on more peaceful waters where people can live together as brothers and sisters.”

Cardinal Czerny recounted the story of the stalwart and remarkably compassionate woman  who became canonized as Saint Bakhita, a girl seized at age 7 or 8 and conscripted into brutal slavery conditions. Achieving her freedom later in life, she became a devout Catholic and dedicated her life to the Lord, always preaching a message of forgiveness – the same message Cardinal Czerny emphasized to a nation marked by internal strife.

In his presentation, the Cardinal also referred back to Pope Francis’ message, when the leader addressed the people of South Sudan in his visit last February. In that message the Pope underscored themes of freedom from oppression, and restoring humanity as a priority to achieving social and political peace.

“When we enter the logic of fighting, of division among us, of bad feelings one against the other, we lose our humanity,” Cardinal Czerny expressed. “And this is the work that Saint Bakhita teaches us…to humanize ourselves and to humanize others.” 

Sudan Relief Fund remains committed to helping rescue families who desperately need to escape the brutality of the ongoing war in Sudan. We thank you for your continued support that makes this lifesaving mission by riverboat possible for so many.

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