Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori calls for A Season of Prayer for Sudan in preparation for January referendum
Calling for a Season of Prayer for Sudan, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a letter which details the importance of Sudan and that African country"s upcoming referendum on January 9, 2011 and urges three steps prayer, study, and action.
"As a fellow member of the Anglican Communion, Sudan"s fragile state is a matter for our own concern," she states. "Many of us know about, and have even met, some of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan, who immigrated to the United States as refugees beginning in 2001. The Episcopal Church now has a number of Sudanese congregations and communities of faith as a result."
"I want to challenge us as a Church to pray for the people of Sudan, to learn more about the forces driving the violence, and to advocate for a peaceful referendum, and whatever the outcome, a peaceful future," she charged.
She concludes, "As we approach the season of preparation for the Prince of Peace, we pray that His reign may be made real in Sudan."
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori"s letter is presented in full at the end.
The Episcopal Church and Sudan
The Episcopal Church has maintained strong ties to Sudan for many years. For example, there are four missionaries from The Episcopal Church currently posted in Sudan.
"Sudan, and the region of Darfur within it, have suffered years of civil war and genocide," explained the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, Africa Partnership Officer for The Episcopal Church, who recently returned from assignment in Africa. "An important referendum on the future of Sudan and on self-determination for the people there is scheduled for January 2011. But there is no guarantee that this referendum will occur peacefully. In fact, there is every indication that violence and perhaps civil war will break out again following the referendum, no matter what the outcome."
A Season of Prayer for Sudan, comprehensive resources and information for use by individuals, churches, groups, and dioceses, has been prepared to better understand the situation and to engage in the process.
The resources on A Season of Prayer for Sudan include:
Video detailing why this referendum is important
Fact sheets about the Episcopal Church in Sudan, the election and the possible outcomes
Map of affected area
Advent Guide for Study
Youth group and Adult Forum discussion questions
Interactive resource for contacting national elected officials
Innovative ways to take action such as vigils
Links to info and organizations including Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN), American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (AFRECS), the Episcopal Church in the Sudan, and dioceses/churches.
Links to blogs and info from the Episcopal missionaries in Sudan
A Season of Prayer for Sudan resources are available here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sudan
Archbishop of the Church in Sudan
The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, has also issued a Call to Prayer. "We request your prayers for Sudan. We request all the churches of Africa to stand firm with the people of Southern Sudan, Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and support the choice that they make in the upcoming referenda and popular consultations whether for unity or separation," he said.
He added, "The global Church must stand united in support of our brothers and sisters who daily witness to faith in Jesus Christ whilst suffering to do so. If this does not happen then Christianity in northern Sudan has the most uncertain future and may even be facing destruction."
Sudan is Africa"s largest country in area and is the tenth-largest country in the world. Touching nine other countries, it is central to the African and Arab worlds. Many expressions of African, Muslim and Christian faith traditions are found here.
In the recent past, the north and south were governed separately. Civil wars lasting about 40 years came to an end in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which gave the south political autonomy for six years, to be followed in 2011 by a referendum on secession. That referendum is slated for January 9, 2011.
About 17% of the population of Sudan lives on less than $1.25 US per day.
If the referendum vote is conducted fairly, most believe that the south will secede.
There are a myriad of issues standing in the way of peace, among them: just revenue sharing from oil; definition of borders; usage rights of the Nile which divide the country; repayment of debt to the world bank; recognition of religious and civil rights for all Sudanese; and full cessation of violence in Darfur.
President Barack Obama has stated: "Sudan is a priority for this Administration, particularly at a time when it cries out for peace and justice."
The Episcopal Church of the Sudan is based in the southern city of Juba and claims 4 million members. It has been a long-standing and outspoken voice for peace. The Episcopal Church is neither pro- nor anti-secession, but rather pro-peace.
Southern secession will leave Episcopalians in the north in need of protection. Rights of Muslims and other minority religions in the largely Christian south would need protection as well.
The letter from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
My brothers and sisters in The Episcopal Church:
The Episcopal Church in Sudan has been a significant national leader and source for peace and reconciliation throughout the hostilities and wars in recent decades. Sudan is facing a referendum in January 2011, during which most observers expect that Southern Sudan will vote to become a separate nation.
As a fellow member of the Anglican Communion, Sudan"s fragile state is a matter for our own concern. Most of us know something of the violence and bloodshed in Darfur, which has been well publicized in the media. Many of us know about, and have even met, some of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan, who immigrated to the United States as refugees beginning in 2001. The Episcopal Church now has a number of Sudanese congregations and communities of faith as a result.
Episcopalians have begun to learn about the violence that continues to face the people of Sudan both in south and north. The warring factions in Sudan reached a peace agreement in 2005, which diminished the level of violence, but did not end it. Part of that Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for a referendum on self-determination and possible independence for Southern Sudan, to be held in 2011.
The current political entity called Sudan is the result of its colonial history, linked with both Egypt and Britain. Since independence in 1956, it has been wracked by civil war and ongoing political and military violence. Sudan has significant natural resources, especially in the form of oil, most of which is located in southern Sudan. The centralized Sudan government in Khartoum is led by President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with international war crimes. Southern Sudan has a share in the national government, and is largely autonomous as a region. Northern Sudan is primarily Muslim and Shari"a law is the basis for justice. Southern Sudan is home to Christians and those who practice African traditional religions.
The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has approximately 5 million members, and has been a leader in seeking basic human rights, including religious freedom, as well as the hard work of peacemaking. Many observers believe there is a high likelihood for a re-emergence of violence in the build up to the referendum or in its aftermath, particularly over religious prejudice and control of the oil resources.
The world has a significant stake in peace in Sudan, for any violence unleashed there can quickly destabilize the surrounding nations of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, Central Africa, Chad, and Libya. The Sudanese bishops I met in 2008 told me vivid stories of watching arms being moved into southern Sudan by jeep and camel. Those bishops and their congregations, and many, many civilians around them, yearn for peace for the ability to raise families and crops, to educate their children, and to worship God as they choose.
The United States is a nation founded on principles based on religious freedom, self-determination, and control of the resources of the lands we occupy. Native Americans would challenge those who came later about all of those principles and the ways in which they were (not) upheld, yet most Americans, whatever their heritage, see those principles as foundational. The United Nations holds similar principles as basic to human rights. Sudan is in the throes of a national struggle for basic freedom and human rights.
I want to challenge us as a Church to pray for the people of Sudan, to learn more about the forces driving the violence, and to advocate for a peaceful referendum, and whatever the outcome, a peaceful future. Our churchwide staff has prepared resources for use in your congregation and diocese.
The Episcopal Church can stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Sudan as we enter a season of preparation by prayer, study, and action. As we approach the season of preparation for the Prince of Peace, we pray that his reign may be made real in Sudan. The prayers and labor of people throughout the world can help to prepare the way.
Your sister in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Resources for A Season of Prayer: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sudan
Episcopal Church in Sudan: http://www.sudan.anglican.org/
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org