Four Sudan conference members describe their ministry experiences

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Oct 22, 2013

[Episcopal News Service — Chicago] The American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan met Oct. 18-20 in the Diocese of Chicago’s headquarters during a time when South Sudan and the surrounding populations are facing conflicts from within and outside of the new nation.

“It’s an uphill and seesaw battle,” AFRECS said in its conference materials. “These problems render the role and the work of the Episcopal Church of Sudan more crucial than ever because it and the Roman Catholic Church are the two most important civil society institutions in the South. They are important in the North as well. The churches’ reach, their moral authority and their numerical weight are being used to promote peace and reconciliation and to stand up for public integrity and the public interest.”

The conference was meant to find ways to enrich relationships with the group’s Sudanese partners, sharing lessons learned in collaboration with them and getting updated on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. Participants also spent time on issues ripe for advocacy with U.S. public policy makers.

The Episcopal Church of Sudan covers the two countries of Sudan and South Sudan. It comprises 28 dioceses that stretch many thousands of miles.

During the opening day of the conference, Episcopal News Service interviewed two Episcopal Church of Sudan bishops, a representative of the Church of England’s Diocese of Salisbury’s 40-year-old relationship with the Anglican province in the Sudans, as well as a young man born in the Nuba Mountains who now lives in the United States and advocates for the security of Nuban youth.

The church’s role in practicing reconciliation in the war-torn area highlighted all fours interviews.

Those video interviews are below.

[ooyala code=”AxZ2Q4ZzpRUi-JcfMegmYQRJuX_Z72G6″ player_id=”d4a5625b85af485eb1fff640076c5be6″]The Rt. Rev. Joseph Atem, of the Diocese of Renk, describes his diocese’s difficult placement between the two Sudans, and his church’s efforts to help those displace by both recent and past conflicts. The church is especially trying to empower women and youth in order to improve their lives and those of their families. All this is happening while the church is playing a key role in helping form the new South Sudan, which is just over two years old.

[ooyala code=”5zMGU4ZzqOeDHobxu6259UD5J0bHWj2t” player_id=”d4a5625b85af485eb1fff640076c5be6″]Canon Ian Woodward, vice chair of the Diocese of Salisbury-Sudan Link, which is a 40-year-old partnership, says the relationship is both challenging and rewarding. It is, he said, based in prayer and strives to discern the “essentials of our faith” and how to turn prayer into action.

[ooyala code=”E3dWQ4ZzpPxqUo1C0oTi0a2TGL3sSNY9″ player_id=”d4a5625b85af485eb1fff640076c5be6″]Diocese of Nzara Bishop Samuel Enosa Peni began work in his remote diocese with a laptop, printer and generator set up under a mango tree. As he led the diocese in a strategic planning process for the first five years, Peni said, he also knew the diocese had a key, influential role in the new nation of South Sudan. This work is being done all the while the people in the area face the continuing threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The bishop is in the leadership of an interfaith group of religious leaders from South Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is working to end the violence caused by the LRA.

[ooyala code=”JvbmQ4ZzoblceGeIH8dS7OrRsceLO422″ player_id=”d4a5625b85af485eb1fff640076c5be6″]Gutti Kanjam was taken from his birthplace in the Nuba Mountains as a boy and forced to live in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. He later lived as a refugee in Lebanon before being resettled in the United States. He is now studying government and international politics at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. And he advocates for Nuban youth. Culturally aligned with South Sudan, the Nuba Mountain region belongs to Sudan.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.