Canterbury's message to South Sudan's Episcopal, Catholic bishops

Posted May 14, 2012

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has sent a message of support to a meeting of Episcopal and Catholic Bishops in South Sudan.

The fourteen bishops, representing the Catholic and Episcopal Churches of South Sudan, met in Yei, South Sudan, from 9th – 11th May 2012.  Led by Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro and Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, the bishops met to pray and reflect together on the relationship between the two Churches, their wider ecumenical responsibilities, and the role they can play in bringing peace and understanding between Sudan and South Sudan. Their brother bishops from the Republic of Sudan were unable to attend the meeting due to the current political situation.

The message from Archbishop Rowan Williams to the bishops follows: 

My dear brothers in Christ,

Greetings to you all in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I send you warmest greetings and hold you in special prayer as you meet together in Yei.  Your coming together as ECS and Catholic bishops is a great sign of hope for the people of Sudan and South Sudan and for all God’s people.

When I visited in 2006, there were so many hopes after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).  We have journeyed with you through times of great celebration and severe stress and we will continue to walk with you, grateful as your brother and sisters in Christ for your steadfast witness both in sorrow and in joy.

We are keenly aware of the great suffering caused by the non-implementation of several key parts of the CPA.  The cry of pain continues to be heard from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, as well as from those affected by the escalation of conflict in the border region between Sudan and South Sudan.  I pray that the UN Security Council Resolution and the AU Roadmap will result in real progress in settling the outstanding issues.

The church’s dedicated efforts in peace-building and advocacy continue to represent a powerful witness to the gospel.  We are inspired by the untiring efforts to bring peace in Jonglei.  We also stand in special solidarity with the church’s situation in the Republic of Sudan and will continue to press for freedom of religion and worship and the safety of the Christian community.

It is a great tribute to the Sudanese Church that it continues to set before the world the vision of a just and peaceful Sudan and South Sudan and to work for its transformation through holistic and equitable development for all.  I hope that this joint meeting will be a time of refreshment and encouragement for you.  May the risen Christ come among you as he did among his disciples and give you his peace.   May his Spirit come upon you and empower you mightily in this calling.

With every blessing,

+Rowan Cantuar

The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend John Sentamu, and facilitators from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, attended the meeting in a demonstration of solidarity by the Universal Church.

 The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Ms Hilde Johnson, visited the bishops, who expressed to her their appreciation for the work of UNMISS, particularly in the Jonglei peace process. The bishops welcomed the peace accord signed by leaders of the six communities of Jonglei State and urged all stakeholders to implement the resolutions and recommendations.

The bishops analysed the events which led to the current crisis between Sudan and South Sudan. While thanking the International Community for all its support over the years, the bishops nevertheless called for greater understanding of the aspirations of the South Sudanese people as they build a new and sovereign nation.

They welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and called for its immediate and full implementation. They expressed their concern about the situation of South Sudanese and other marginalised peoples in the Republic of Sudan, and condemned the continuing aerial bombardment of civilans by Sudan Armed Forces.

The bishops recommitted themselves to work ecumenically, and considered how they could strengthen the Sudan Council of Churches in this period of transition and crisis between the two nations.

The bishops released a Message of Peace entitled “We have a dream”, stating:

“We dream of two nations which are democratic and free, where people of all religions, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all languages enjoy equal human rights based on citizenship. We dream of two nations at peace with each other, cooperating to make the best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity and mutual respect, celebrating their shared history and forgiving any wrongs they may have done to each other. We dream of people no longer traumatised, of children who can go to school, of mothers who can attend clinics, of an end to poverty and malnutrition, and of Christians and Muslims who can attend church or mosque freely without fear. Enough is enough.

There should be no more war between Sudan and South Sudan!”

The communiqué can be downloaded here as a Word document.