A Day of Prayer and Fasting For Peace in South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo
Pope Francis has called for a ‘Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace’ today, Friday, February 23, 2018. He has invited us to join our brothers and sisters around the world to pray for peace in the countries of South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo. The leaders of the Anglican Church worldwide have elected to stand behind this call.
Below is a message from the Rev. Richard Parkins, Executive Director of American Friends of the Episcopal Church in the Sudans (AFRECS), along with links to articles from The Anglican Alliance, Anglican News Service, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Emerging from forty days in the wilderness following his baptism by John, Christ tells his followers "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". As we engage in our Lenten mediations and reflections, many of us cannot escape encountering the painful reality that describes South Sudan. As this country moves into its fifth year of a seemingly unremitting humanitarian crisis, we might find it hard to imagine that the kingdom of heaven is near. We might also remember that Christ uttered these words after a protracted period of prayer and examination. It is also important to understand that Christ makes repentance a precursor to experiencing the kingdom of heaven.
Does Christ's experience in the desert and the ministry that follows say anything to us as we journey with our Sudanese sisters and brothers in search of peace? How can we help our friends take seriously the notion that the kingdom of heaven is near? Maybe the call to repentance needs to get more emphasis as we contemplate the full meaning of Mark's Gospel message we can well imagine that those who surrounded Jesus following his baptism and the commencement of his ministry were also seeking peace. As they were encouraged by the prospect of a better life, they were urged to first repent - turn in a different direction, reverse course, and seek forgiveness for their wrongdoings.
We know that many in South Sudan are working for peace. We have the call from Pope Francis to which our Anglican leaders also subscribe that we must pray earnestly for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - two countries where horrific violence inflicts endless suffering on people making peace seem unobtainable. Leaders in the region are once again participating in a process that revisits and attempts to reinvigorate an earlier peace process which many feel has failed.
There might be many reasons why peace for South Sudan remains so remote. Is there a place for forgiveness in this process that has been overlooked? Have leaders been able to acknowledge the welfare of their people above their preoccupation with power and wealth? Have faith leaders been as diligent as they might have been in speaking truth to power and in invoking fearlessly God's message of forgiveness and reconciliation? Are tribal leaders seeing in those of other tribes a brother or a sister rather than an enemy against whom revenge must be taken? Are we all praying as fervently as we might that those who are sowing seeds of forgiveness and reconciliation being given the support that they need so that their courageous efforts take hold and multiply?
The Gospel message brings the good news that the kingdom is near but tell us that moving from near to truly present requires repentance. As we repent for our own shortcomings as advocates and prayer partners for our friends in South Sudan, let us also pray that those who perpetrate violence in South Sudan and who nurture a culture of revenge repent so that the "kingdom of heaven will come nearer".
The Anglican Alliance:
The Anglican Communion News Service: