Video: Archbishop of Canterbury on the South Sudan crisis

By Matthew Davies
Posted May 14, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] “We must be battering at the gates of heaven in prayer” for South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says during an interview with Episcopal News Service.

During the past five months, South Sudan has faced its greatest challenge since becoming the world’s newest nation in July 2011, when it seceded from the north in a referendum on independence following almost half a century of civil war.

A separate conflict erupted last December after South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused his sacked former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Welby visited South Sudan in late January and witnessed some of the atrocities of the conflict. In the interview with ENS, Welby relayed his visit to Bor, in Jonglei State, where he said he saw dead bodies lining the streets and where he consecrated a mass grave.

In the midst of evil, Welby said that he saw God “in the extraordinary fact that after half a century of civil war, and the hardening that that causes, that we could stand in Bor and see people weeping with compassion because the spirit of God still moves with love in their hearts.”

But even as hope emerged on May 9 when the two rivals agreed to a truce and to forming a transitional government ahead of fresh elections, fighting has continued in parts of South Sudan. The humanitarian crisis is vast and the South Sudanese are desperately in need of the world’s support. The conflict has left thousands dead and some 1.5 million people have been displaced.

The church in South Sudan has played a major role in peace and reconciliation. Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, chair of the national reconciliation program, was summoned to the May 9 meeting between the two rivals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before Kiir and Machar signed the peace deal, Deng held their hands and led a prayer.

Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called the Episcopal Church to prayer and action for South Sudan, saying she would like Episcopalians “to learn more about the situation, to be in contact with their legislators, to pray, and to reach out to the Sudanese in their own neighborhoods.”

She was joined May 9 by heads of the North American Lutheran and Anglican churches in calling the church to prayer, especially as the Episcopal Church calendar commemorates the Martyrs of Sudan on May 16.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations provided a template for an advocacy letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, urging him to support peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

For further information about the crisis in South Sudan and resources for prayer, study and action, visit:

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (2)

  1. Margo Fletcher says:

    While i deeply sympathizes with the southern Sundanese and hold them up in prayer I wish our presiding bishop would look to the suffering in our own country caused the outrageous income inequalities that 70% of our population are forced to live with daily while our taxation system and other systemic systems go unchallenged. Please remember that we have over 6 million people who survive on food stamps and in shelters whose benefits some parts of the government are trying to cut in the richest country in the world that there has ever been. When she is she going to speak out about this or is it too close to home?

    1. Christopher Lo says:

      Dear Ms. Fletcher:

      There is a time and place for everything. The points you raise are both valid and deserves attention. To piggy-back on this powerful and heartfelt video from Archbishop Welby about a suffering land and its people, and to use it as a back handed attack on Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori, is mean spirited of you and contrary to the mind of Christ.

      Last Sunday, we were reminded in our Gospel reading about the Good Shepherd “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.” (John 10:11-12)

      I hope you will reflect on the this text as you and your respectable upper middle class friends surreptitiously encouraged us to “look after our own” and not bother with those people who live in a “far-off land.”

      Will you, Ms. Fletcher, follow the Good Shepherd, or the hired hand?

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