On Thursday, 15th November, at 2AM a Kenyan Jesuit, Fr. Victor-Luke Odhiambo, 62, was killed during the attack against the Jesuit community in Cueibet, South Sudan. Three other members of the community, who were already asleep during the incident, are reported safe. A letter with condolences was addressed to the Eastern Africa Provincial, Fr. Joseph Oduor Afulo, by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa.
Fr. Victor-Luke, SJ was born on 20th January 1956, entered the Society on 4th July 1978, and was ordained a priest on 22nd August 1987. He took his final vows on 30th May 1993. At the time of the attack he held positions of the Principal of Mazzolari Teachers’ College (MTC) and the acting Superior of the Community (since 30th January 2017). He had worked in South Sudan for approximately 10 years before this incident. Prior that he served in the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Loyola High School in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
"Father Victor Luke Odhiambo leaves a name, not only in South Sudan as the first Jesuit to die at the service of its people, but in the whole of Eastern Africa as a teacher of thousands of students," wrote Father General in his letter, "he was a very courageous man, intelligent, caring, creative administrator and above all a believer in the value of education. He was not afraid of venturing into the unknown even into the most dangerous of places once he was convinced it was the Lord’s mission."
Read the full letter here - [link]
His body has been moved from Cueibet to Rumbek for preservation at a hospital; there is no mortuary facility in Ceuibet or Rumbek. The burial will be held this weekend in Rumbek.
Local media report the motive behind the murder remains unclear. The Gok state minister, quoted by Radio Tamazuj, informed that one person associated with the case had been arrested by Thursday morning. "He will tell us who are the other people involved,” said the official. According to the other community members, the perpetrators ran away after hearing the alarm sound, turned on by the Jesuits, woken up because of the gunshots.
The local government declared 3 days of mourning starting today in honour of the Jesuit.
The news of Fr. Odhiambo's death shocked many Jesuits, who knew and admired him as a talented teacher and administrator, but also a deeply dedicated Jesuit priest. Many of them expressed their mourning in social media:
" May your martyrdom strengthen us your companions in and on mission. And may your martyrdom equally strengthen the people of God for whom you dedicated your life to serve for the greater glory of God. May your martyrdom mark the birth of true and lasting peace in South Sudan." - Zachary Miricho SJ [full post]
"Fr. Luke fully identified with the Mission as the place of greatest need and gave himself fully to the people of South Sudan. Rest in Peace Luke! And may the Good Lord grant you the graces to enjoy with Him in His heavenly banquet." - Peter L. Omondi SJ [full post]
"R.I.P Our beloved brother and companion, Fr. Victor Luke Odhiambo S.J. Humble companion, Educationist and Martyr in South Sudan..." - Samuel Beirao SJ [full post]