Time for Christians to Step Up, The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine Canon and Commissary to the Archbishop of Sudan in the USA
02 Mar 2007
Mundokooro-Mundakooro children were shouting with alarm as they saw me approach the first primary school for children in the diocese of Juba. I asked my host, Rev. Enoch Tombe, the reason for the childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reaction. Rev. Tombe is the Secretary General of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. He told me that the children think you are an Arab. People in the Southern Sudan have been terrorized by the Arabs during twenty five years of war. For them, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ArabÃ¢â‚¬Â is a derogatory term, meaning "one who can not be trusted."
I see a great challenge facing this church which has been persecuted by the extremist Islamic Sudanese government. It faces the question of how to build bridges of peace and reconciliation with their aggressors. The gospel is about forgiveness, love and reconciliation. Sudan has lost 2.5 million Christians and animists and four million have been displaced in Southern Sudan. A multi-task mission faces the church. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are beginning to return from refugee camps and they need welcome centers to incorporate them back in their own communities.
For years these refugees have lived in remote camps as displaced communities. They have been uprooted from their homes and their home communities. The Church needs to help young people to return to schools. This young generation has grown up in refugee camps and has not received proper schooling. I sense that these young people are keen to learn. Schools buildings were destroyed during the war. Southern Sudan has the largest number of schools meeting under mango trees. Children need books, schools supplies and money to pay fees to attend schools. Education is the key to their future.
As people get re-settled in their communities, they need clean water to drink and cook and wash with. There is a great shortage of clean water all over Southern Sudan. Wells needs to be dug and water pumps installed for each community to have clean drinking water.
Church centers have no electricity or other resources, but these centers are the main gathering places for communities. There people get their basic education, religious instruction, HIV/AIDS prevention classes. Sudanese people for centuries were well protected as they lived within their own tribes. Their world was limited. Now because of being displaced for 25 years of war, they have been exposed to many other cultures and communities. Some young women have been forced to move to big cities, where they lived as refugees, selling their bodies to support their families. HIV AIDS is spreading inside Southern Sudan as people return from displaced camps to their homes.
The last two years have been relatively peaceful, but tribal tension can grow even within Southern Sudan. Dinka are the dominant ethnic group in the government in Southern or New Sudan. The New Sudan leadership in the south will have to learn to share leadership and resources to develop Southern Sudan. Inter-tribal tension can hurt progress and the Khartoum government of Sudan benefits from this. After another four years, there will be a referendum to determine if the South shall stay as part of whole Sudan or become an independent New Sudan with self-rule. We need to pray for peace and unity within Southern Sudan.
The Church in Southern Sudan is in the same position as when Nehemiah was called by God to build the broken walls of Jerusalem. I find that the Church leadership has the resolve and deep faith in Christ to be the witnesses of the Risen Christ. The total infrastructure has been destroyed during 25 years of war.
Partners in Mission in the West needs to stand in solidarity to build the broken walls of the church in Sudan. I recommend four key areas where we can help
1. Education for Children. Provide scholarships and help to build schools.
2. Help to train Church leaders. Provide resources for education, transport and building churches and houses for Pastors. Church is seen as the most trusted and faithful partner which has stayed with her people in exile and now is there to welcome them back home.