WASHINGTON (August 2, 2004) -– The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops International Policy Committee arrived in Sudan yesterday to assess firsthand the dire humanitarian situation in the Darfur region.
Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee, will travel to South Darfur, where he will meet with the governor of the region and visit refugee camps. In addition, he will meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in the region.
In Khartoum, Bishop Ricard will meet with Catholic Church leaders, United Nations personnel, and several officials of the Government in Khartoum, including the foreign minister, the minister of internal affairs, and the first vice president.
Government-backed Arab militias, known as the "Janjaweed," have killed an estimated 30,000 Black Africans in the Darfur region of Sudan in the last 17 months. Another million have been forced to flee in the face of rapes and torture. At the same time, the Janjaweed have prevented humanitarian groups from providing aid.
In a statement released on May 7, Bishop Ricard called the atrocities in Darfur "the newest symbol of human depravity and ethnic cleansing."
Bishop Ricard, who is accompanied by Franciscan Father Michael Perry, the USCCB's policy advisor on African affairs, is scheduled to return to the United States on August 6.
NOTE: Bishop Ricard and Father Perry will be available for interviews upon their return. For more information, contact David Early at 202-541-3200.