On Sunday the new Province of Sudan will be inaugurated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Khartoum. This brings the total of autonomous provinces in the Anglican Communion to 39.

The Diocese of Leeds has had a partnership link with Sudan for nearly forty years, and Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo was over with us in Leeds in March/April this year. That’s why I am going.

The reason for the creation of the new Province is this. The Episcopal Church of Sudan covered the whole of the original country. When South Sudan separated just a few years ago (2011), the single Church eventually created an internal province for Sudan. What is happening on Sunday is the natural (and necessary) consequence of the creation of separate countries.

Given Sudan’s drive to have one nation, one faith and one language – Sudan, Islam and Arabic – and to guard its own integrity over against the seceded South Sudan, relations between church and state might actually become clearer and better: a church for Sudan.

More anon. We leave Heathrow soon.

I don't have much time these days for doing the blog. All I manage to put up is scripts or journalism. I recently did a paper at a theological conference, but 5,000 words is too many for this medium.

Tomorrow I head off to Tanzania to visit one of our Anglican partnership links: three dioceses in the north. So, here's a quick blast on a theme.

Most Church of England dioceses have links with dioceses around the world (or the Anglican Communion for these purposes). My diocese comprises three historic English dioceses and each had long-established links: Bradford with Sudan and Southwestern Virginia (USA), Wakefield with Tanzania and Skara (Sweden), Ripon & Leeds with Sri Lanka.

All the richness and complexity of the Anglican Communion is there. In Sudan the church faces dreadful pressure because African Christians (as opposed to Arabic Muslims) are being persecuted and squeezed. The reasons are complicated, but the separation of South Sudan from Sudan (and consequent vindictiveness) has led to a ratcheting up of the pressure. Look back to the posts I wrote when visiting Sudan in January 2013.)

Tanzania faces political and economic difficulties, and bears the marks of many of the problems of Africa. It is also beautiful. The church is divided in one of the dioceses we shall be visiting.

I visited Sri Lanka (see posts here) in October 2014, learning a huge amount about the politics and tribal tensions that lay beneath the decades-long civil war. I also witnessed the unique contribution being made by the Anglican Church in promoting and working for reconciliation between scarred peoples. Rebuilding broken communities lies at the heart of the church's witness.

Southwestern Virginia is a beautiful part of America where the church gets stuck into witnessing within its particular culture. The relationship with South Sudan is about to be brought to a conclusion. The diocese is currently enjoying its annual Council. I have visited twice – the second time for the consecration of the new bishop Mark Bourlakas. (I sat next to Michael Curry, now the Presiding Bishop, during the service. When the choir sang Parry's 'I was glad' I pointed out that it had been written for a coronation in England – and thought the Americans had fought hard to get away from this stuff. Michael turned to me and said: “We won the War of Independence, but you won the culture wars.” Excellent.)

I visited Skara briefly in 2014 to represent the Archbishop of Canterbury and my diocese at the 1000th anniversary of the diocese. I also managed to do a speech made up of a considerable number of Abba lyrics. They laughed.

In my diocese we cover major cities, post-industrial towns, deeply rural communities. All of life is here.

In other words, bring this lot together and all the complexities of the modern world are there. Christians struggling with persecution and pressure, those at the heart of a beautiful country that has moved from colonialism to civil war and beyond. Scandinavia, the United States and England represent a spread of modern western liberal democracies where the church takes a number of different forms and is having to face challenges different from those in, for example, Africa.

What often surprises me is how surprised others are when they hear about the reality of being a Christian in England and the west. They see the Church of England and English society as it was seventy years ago.

Last week I had Skype conversations with the Bishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka), the Archbishop of Khartoum and the Bishop of Southwestern Virginia. In the next couple of days I will meet the Tanzanians. I have had email correspondence with the Bishop of Skara. Why? Because these links are more than simply institutional connections; we are friends and brothers, able to be honest and open with each other.

So, why write this now? Well, mainly because I am planning to bring the bishops together in 2017 to live, pray, talk and learn together.

This is what the Anglican Communion is all about. And it is never boring.

So, to Tanzania…

 

The last time I was stopped at a police roadblock was in Zimbabwe in 2007. In fact we were stopped at a number of them, mostly while we were en route to Victoria Falls. This morning we were stopped in the dark just outside Khartoum while driving to visit the new Diocese of Wad Medani. Our passports were taken while another bloke with a big red stick poked his head through the car window, saw the white man and asked where we were from. “England” elicited a frown and a sucking of teeth – after which he said, “Football?” I wondered if giving the wrong answer might make our plight worse. “Liverpool,” I said with a smile. He looked at me and said: “You'll never walk alone.”

That's globalisation for you!

Further on in the two-and-a-half hour journey and I got another lesson in how not to jump to conclusions… or misreadings.

The road runs alongside the Blue Nile and either side of it runs a sort of 'ribbon development' in the making (as well millions of plastic bags and bottles, accompanied by an exotic range of animal carcasses at various stages of decay). What I thought I was looking at as we drove (hairily, at 60mph, as if we were playing dodgems) was strings of derelict buildings surrounded by low and deserted compound walls. Another bit of unfinished or neglected infrastructure? Or evidence of communities now abandoned because of conflict or expulsions?

Neither, in fact. These were buildings and walls in process of being constructed. What I saw as falling down was actually being built up. My prejudices – of which I am not proud – were confounded yet again. And it made me wonder how many other such judgements I make that reality might embarrass. All I did was ask the Bishop of Khartoum (our host) and he, unaware of my thinking, just told me people find it cheaper to buy land and gradually build houses outside the city. I didn't know how to read what I saw.

Having cleared that up – and resolving to ask before judging – we received wonderful and generous hospitality at the Cathedral in Wad Medani. This diocese was established only a couple of years ago, carved out of Khartoum which was imply too big. It is still enormous. And it still covers territory that is currently subject to war – creating enormous numbers of displaced people. All the clergy, including the Diocesan Bishop, are volunteers – they are setting the whole thing up from scratch and, already poor, have next to nothing.

But, what they do have is faith in God, a strong commitment to serve the people of that area, and a refusal to give in to any easy option. They are remarkable. Why is it always the church that runs (for example) literacy projects and creates community for people who don't belong to them? It seems that wherever you go in the world, the church is there, using its often meagre resources for the betterment of their people.

At the moment this diocese depends on links with dioceses like mine even to produce a modicum of working capital. They are explicit about wanting to be self-sufficient, but need to get the resources (for example, build shops and a guest house on their land in order to raise a little revenue to then be able to fund clergy and further sustainable projects).

If you know anyone rich who wants to see some cash go to very impressive people in a tough part of the world, point them in my direction.

And now for a meeting with the bishops of Sudan – excluding the Bishop of Kadugli who is now based in the South and cannot return to his own diocese because of the war going on there. More anon.

(Oh… and I have just re-read Joachim Gauck's little book on Freiheit: Ein Plädoyer – basically, we need to know how to use freedom for and not just enjoy freedom from – before moving on to Walter Brueggemann's The Practice of Prophetic Imagination. It's all fun, fun, fun…)

 

The last time I was stopped at a police roadblock was in Zimbabwe in 2007. In fact we were stopped at a number of them, mostly while we were en route to Victoria Falls. This morning we were stopped in the dark just outside Khartoum while driving to visit the new Diocese of Wad Medani. Our passports were taken while another bloke with a big red stick poked his head through the car window, saw the white man and asked where we were from. “England” elicited a frown and a sucking of teeth – after which he said, “Football?” I wondered if giving the wrong answer might make our plight worse. “Liverpool,” I said with a smile. He looked at me and said: “You'll never walk alone.”

That's globalisation for you!

Further on in the two-and-a-half hour journey and I got another lesson in how not to jump to conclusions… or misreadings.

The road runs alongside the Blue Nile and either side of it runs a sort of 'ribbon development' in the making (as well millions of plastic bags and bottles, accompanied by an exotic range of animal carcasses at various stages of decay). What I thought I was looking at as we drove (hairily, at 60mph, as if we were playing dodgems) was strings of derelict buildings surrounded by low and deserted compound walls. Another bit of unfinished or neglected infrastructure? Or evidence of communities now abandoned because of conflict or expulsions?

Neither, in fact. These were buildings and walls in process of being constructed. What I saw as falling down was actually being built up. My prejudices – of which I am not proud – were confounded yet again. And it made me wonder how many other such judgements I make that reality might embarrass. All I did was ask the Bishop of Khartoum (our host) and he, unaware of my thinking, just told me people find it cheaper to buy land and gradually build houses outside the city. I didn't know how to read what I saw.

Having cleared that up – and resolving to ask before judging – we received wonderful and generous hospitality at the Cathedral in Wad Medani. This diocese was established only a couple of years ago, carved out of Khartoum which was imply too big. It is still enormous. And it still covers territory that is currently subject to war – creating enormous numbers of displaced people. All the clergy, including the Diocesan Bishop, are volunteers – they are setting the whole thing up from scratch and, already poor, have next to nothing.

But, what they do have is faith in God, a strong commitment to serve the people of that area, and a refusal to give in to any easy option. They are remarkable. Why is it always the church that runs (for example) literacy projects and creates community for people who don't belong to them? It seems that wherever you go in the world, the church is there, using its often meagre resources for the betterment of their people.

At the moment this diocese depends on links with dioceses like mine even to produce a modicum of working capital. They are explicit about wanting to be self-sufficient, but need to get the resources (for example, build shops and a guest house on their land in order to raise a little revenue to then be able to fund clergy and further sustainable projects).

If you know anyone rich who wants to see some cash go to very impressive people in a tough part of the world, point them in my direction.

And now for a meeting with the bishops of Sudan – excluding the Bishop of Kadugli who is now based in the South and cannot return to his own diocese because of the war going on there. More anon.

(Oh… and I have just re-read Joachim Gauck's little book on Freiheit: Ein Plädoyer – basically, we need to know how to use freedom for and not just enjoy freedom from – before moving on to Walter Brueggemann's The Practice of Prophetic Imagination. It's all fun, fun, fun…)

 

It might seem an odd choice of reading material on a trip to Sudan, but I have just finished Simon Jenkins' A Short History of England. Excellent stuff – a romp through the kings and queens and politicians of England since before England existed. The book cover also calls it 'The complete story of our nation in a single volume'. Er… I think there might be a slight discrepancy between 'a short history' and 'complete story'! Anyway, it is a great quick read and fills a gap.

The reading also offers a little relief from the insistent questions surrounding and arising from almost everything else we are doing and everywhere else we are going here in Khartoum. Yesterday we were taken to visit the Abu Rof Clinic in a poor area of Omdurman. The Administrator showed us round and the ordered goodness of the place was evident at every turn. This clinic, run by the church, reaches people not being reached by anyone else. They do basic health education, lab tests, nutrition advice and resourcing, counselling and other medical and pastoral care. The scope is remarkable.

The main ailments among children here are TB, skin diseases and digestive problems, mainly caused by malnutrition, poor hygiene and poor understanding of health basics. Adults are increasingly showing up with HIV as well as similar illnesses to the children. Women are taught about birth control (not using contraceptives). The most surprising discovery of the visit so far was the moringa tree – the leaves provide amazing amounts of vitamins and minerals and can be dried, crushed and sprinkled on other foods. Brilliant! So, the clinic not only grows its own, but it also enables people to have their own to grow so they have an endless supply of nutritional elements at no cost.

However, the visit was also poignant. Two Swiss nurses have been told to leave the country and the second leaves tonight. After 24 years he in this clinic, this seems an almost absurd move that can only harm the people whom the government (presumably) wants to help in terms of health care. This sort of expulsion is not uncommon and other stories can be told later.

I might be wrong, but it seems that (particularly) the vote to create the new state of Southern Sudan has led the government of Sudan to make southerners accept the consequences of their vote: you wanted your own country; now go and live in it. So southerners are being asked to go south. This is, in one sense, entirely understandable (if not entirely defensible) in terms of making people accept responsibility for the choices they have made. Foreigners with connections to the churches are also being told to leave. The overall drive seems to be to create a single country with a single culture and a single religion – and this process is, of course, enhanced by the drive to have a single language, Arabic. Hence the problem with the marginalization of the Nuba (Africans) and the continuing attrition in the Nuba Mountains.

First impressions should never lead to final conclusions. However, the picture is beginning to build and I am understanding more each day of why things are developing the way they are. I will need to think it through once we have returned and then see where the dust settles.

Today we have a meeting with the British Ambassador before heading into the suuk for yet another new experience. Given that I loathe any form of shopping anywhere, this might have to be seen as a 'cultural experience'.

 

It is pretty pointless doing some naive political analysis when visiting some of the poorest schools in the world, containing some of the poorest children in the world. Analysis of causes does nothing to help the children standing in front of you at that moment.

This morning we visited the diocesan offices in Khartoum-Omdurman before being taken off to visit three schools. The first was a Catholic primary school in a former shanty town on the outskirts of the city. 480 children occupy an area little larger than the size of a football pitch penalty area. Arranged in 7 or 8 classes – and ranging in age from 7 to 18 – we went into tiny classrooms of up to 70 children. The only furniture apart from a blackboard was the metal benches on which the children sat squashed against each other.

How is anyone supposed to learn anything in conditions like this?

As we left each class the children sang for us. There was big optimism, but how well placed it is is a mystery. What was remarkable about the school was the commitment of the staff. Most of these children have been both displaced and traumatised by war – first in Darfur, later (and currently) in the Nuba Mountains. The staff includes graduates, who might get better-paid jobs elsewhere, giving up a year or two to volunteer to teach and care for these children. “They cannot give up on their own people…”

We moved on to another church-run primary school and its associated secondary school, now suffering because so many students have been forced to move to Southern Sudan. We heard an impassioned plea from a headmistress that we should pray for them and do what we could to make their plight known. No self-pity – just realism and hope and a determination to see this through.

Back at the diocesan offices we met women who organise and lead literacy courses for adults, mainly through the Mothers Union. These were impressive and determined women who taught us more about the predicament of being African rather than Arab in Sudan – especially in relation to jobs, security and dignity. I will say more on my return to England, once I have thought it through. What is clear, though, is that diocesan links such as that between Bradford and Sudan (and, in my earlier role, between Southwark and Zimbabwe) are hugely important – they build relationship, keep stories alive, make sure that no one is alone.

Like the convergence of the Blue and White Nile (see the photo), we flow together from different directions, but cannot then be separated as we move forwards together into an unknown world.

It also to be noted, however, that we have met nothing other than courtesy and welcome out on the streets, in the shops, and so on.

The learning continues.

 

We arrived in Khartoum an hour late and got to the guesthouse where we are staying at 5am. So Sunday was spent asleep until we were collected and taken to the Cathedral where I was preaching at the 6pm Communion service.

There were probably 40 people in the Cathedral. Over dinner with the Bishop of Khartoum later, he explained how, following the separation of Southern Sudan from Sudan in 2011, the expulsion of people of Southern Sudanese origin has impacted not only on the church, but also on the country as a whole. I was a little surprised to discover that even people in their fifties and sixties, born and bred in the north, have also been expelled because their parents or grandparents originally came from the South.

The decision to push southerners out seems to have arisen from pique that they voted for separation and declined unity with the North. “You have your own country now” might be an understandable emotional response, but it won't help an economy thrive. The displacement is huge and the longer-term consequences as yet unknown.

First impressions of Sudan are limited. It is hot – not a bad thing to get some sun a couple of days after my doctor told me my vitamin D count is very low – and the pace is slow. The only other African country I can claim any familiarity with is Zimbabwe – so, now I understand the superficial difference between African Africa and Arabic Africa.

Today we will be visiting a Christian training institute and having lunch with the Principal. The temperature is due to reach 31C today and 38C later in the week. And we are missing the snow in England!

And below is the view from where I am sitting. Yes, I should have sat somewhere else…

 

Archbishop Daniel Deng has published the following statement on the Church’s commitment to the new nation of South Sudan:


Pastoral Letter Advising the Sons and Daughters of the Republic of South Sudan

Saturday 9 July 2011

Archbishop Daniel Deng

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan Independence Prayer

Heavenly Father,
We give you all the honour and the praise as we celebrate the wonderful independence you have given us.
You have led your children across the river, bringing an end to our slavery and abuse.
We have left behind the pain and suffering of so many years of oppression.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. May those who surrendered their lives for the freedom we now enjoy, rest in perfect and everlasting peace in your kingdom.
Let your Holy Spirit guide and protect us as we strive for the peace, freedom and stability we have longed for in this land.
Show us how to love one another as you have so commanded us to do.
Unite us to each other and to yourself.
Cancel any plans of tribalism, corruption, injustice, division and greed that may linger in the hearts of your children causing us to live in darkness and confusion.
And grant us your grace and blessings in abundance as we build this new nation of South Sudan for your glory in accordance with your holy will.
We ask this in the name of your Son, our Saviour and Friend, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Caring for God’s Gift of Independence

A call for practical action

Preamble

The House of Bishops, comprising the 31 dioceses of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, under the leadership of the Most Rev Dr Daniel Deng Bul Yak, have issued the following joint pastoral letter to the children of South Sudan to be a guide and framework for them as citizens of the new Republic of South Sudan.

i. The challenging context for independence

Achieving a successful referendum

We congratulate the Government of South Sudan which has brought the Referendum to the people of South Sudan, the result of which has brought the independence of our country. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement framework made possible an extended period of peace which enabled the establishment of the institutions of government: army, police, legislature and executive in South Sudan. We now have a real government and can now be identified as a nation, which has attracted international support. These are great achievements which must be recognized, celebrated and guarded carefully.

The challenge of securing peace and stability

The Episcopal Church of Sudan understands that the Government of South Sudan now faces numerous challenges in securing the sustained peace, stability, growth and development which should be the fruits of Independence on July 9th. These include the unresolved issues which have followed the peaceful referendum, notably Abyei, the North-South border and the mounting insecurity caused by militia activities in different parts of the new country as well as Lords Resistance Army activities in the west. We are especially concerned about the escalation of hostilities around Abyei.

ECS recognizes that resolving these internal and external causes of insecurity must be a priority for the Government as it seeks to sustain the absence of conflict, which was made possible by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Political solutions will be easier to identify and implement if there is an absence of conflict. A renewal of war between the two countries of South Sudan and North Sudan will bring untold suffering to our people and delay the point at which we can begin to heal the trauma of the war years, and recover the lost decades of development.

We stand willing to play our part in sharing the burden of responsibility which rests on the shoulders of the Government of South Sudan. We are mobilizing our own international networks to encourage the international donor community to give the same attention to this critical period in the history of South Sudan as they gave in the period leading up to the Referendum.An ecumenical international advocacy visit is scheduled for October this year similar to that launched in advance of the referendum.

At home, in our churches and communities across the country, we will continue to preach an holistic gospel to meet the spiritual and physical needs of our people, promoting the values of peace and reconciliation, and the behaviours of non-violence and negotiation. The prayer at the head of this paper will inspire and inform the messages which we promote.

The Transitional Constitution

The Transitional Constitution process is almost complete. While we had argued for a more inclusive process in the development of the Constitution, we remain committed to help the promotion of principles of the Transitional Constitution Document which establish a responsible covenant between those charged with the responsibility of governance and the governed.

We welcome the statement that all religions shall be treated equally and religion or religious beliefs shall not be used for divisive purposes. We also welcome the rights afforded to religious institutions and individuals enshrined in the document.

We will take time to study the finally approved document in depth and, with our fellow religious institutions, engage constructively with the Government in clarifying the provisions included which relate to the roles, rights and responsibilities of religious organisations and their leaders. This includes discussion of the representation of faith-based organizations on the National Constitutional Conference.

We trust that we can also secure other regular meeting points between the leadership of religious institutions and the Government as there is much that our people can gain from effective collaboration between the Government and the representatives of the faith communities.

ii. Three priorities for action

At the same time as encouraging and supporting the Government of South Sudan to take critical steps to control insecurity and resolve pending issues, we call attention to three key opportunities which we believe must be seized firmly in order to build a new and healthy nation for the Republic of South Sudan. In so doing, we recognise the achievements of the Government to date and identify urgent, practical steps for the coming 12 months. We offer this in a spirit of complementary partnership with the Government, other faith communities and their institutions and with the people of South Sudan.

It is our conviction that progress in these three areas will contribute significantly to reduce the vulnerability of our new country to unwelcome and unhelpful interference from outside.

THREE PRIORITY AREAS

1. Achieving Peace and Non-Violence
2. Promoting Unity by reducing tribalism
3. Promoting equitable development through effective decentralisation.

1 Achieving Peace and Non-Violence by Promoting the Rule of Law (customary and modern)

The peace that followed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was achieved through prolonged violence. The violence of the war, leading to the deaths and displacement of millions of our people, has been the price paid for independence. The legacy of this is high levels of trauma across the people of the new country, including those who are choosing to return. We would like to see peace prevail all over the two new sovereign nations. For those who have taken up arms, we call on them to return home and join in the building of the newborn nation. We do not wish for our people to go through further suffering; we have suffered enough.

What has been achieved to date?

We give credit to the Government for successfully maintaining peace until the Referendum. We also welcome the commitment of the Transitional Constitution to create ‘an all-embracing homeland for its people’, where ‘diversities peacefully co-exist’. This is a powerful vision to inspire our people.
The Government has managed to keep the tribes together in the lead up to the Referendum through the South-South Dialogue process. Without this, there would not have been such a large majority in favour of independence.
The Government has also passed a number of important laws which will, over time, shape the development of South Sudan’s security organs, especially the police and judiciary, as well as guiding citizens in respect to their responsibilities to uphold the peace, respect human security and property and move away from a culture of impunity.

What is being asked of the Government?

To work harder to ensure that all citizens understand the new laws of the Republic of South Sudan and how these relate to customary laws.
To minimise the increasing land disputes and quarrels by undertaking objective surveys of new areas and through mechanisms by which land is equitably distributed.
To strengthen the judiciary, in order that the laws – modern and customary – are properly executed across the land.
To work towards greater discipline and cooperation in the armed forces and the police service through correct government and adherence to the constitution in order to minimise instability in South Sudan caused by factionalism and/or personal grievances.
To renew efforts to address the internal instability caused by the Lords Resistance Army by developing an action plan together with the religious leaders of LRA-affected areas and sustaining dialogue with the UPDF and international community.

What is the Church offering?

Its strong internal and external network of organizations and people working towards greater justice, peace and reconciliation in South Sudan, in collaboration with other churches through the Sudan Council of Churches interchurch committees, to play an active role in helping to promote among the people the new laws of the land.
Skilled leaders to assist in mediation processes, which may contribute to political solutions in the armed conflicts currently breaking between militias in South Sudan.
The Church will do more to promote non-violence and peace at community level through its pastoral role in trauma counselling, local level mediation and the promotion of the Ten Commandments to discourage factionalism and the formation of civil mercenary groups.

2 Achieving unity by promoting the Transitional Constitution and reducing tribalism, nepotism and corruption

We call on our people to be united. The unity that was shown during the referendum should continue to be seen all over the Republic of South Sudan. This is one way of proving wrong those who prophesy that South Sudan is likely to be a failed state. Unity is more likely to be achieved if people understand and respect the new Transitional Constitution whose purpose is to provide a common vision for the development of our new country.

Corruption and nepotism give birth to tribalism. Corruption is more than bribery or embezzlement of funds; it includes abuse of power or authority for private gain. The appointment of people to positions based on family or clan or other ties is also corruption. These trends work against unity and undermine the tenets of the Constitution. We believe that appointments to all positions should be based on merit. Similarly, the misuse or theft of public or church money is also corruption. Fraud, that is the illegal acquisition of money, goods or services, is also considered as corruption. We call on Sudanese people to reject tribalism, nepotism and corruption.

What has been achieved to date?

We welcome the Transitional Constitution with its clear vision for the new country, as well as the strong stance taken against tribalism, nepotism and corruption in the Constitution.
We welcome the setting up of the Anti-Corruption Commission and those parts of the Transitional Constitution which make clear the Government’s commitments to public accountability and transparency.

What is being asked of the Government?

To ensure that there is comprehensive consultation about the implementation of the Transitional Constitution. This could be included in the continuation and expansion of the South-South Dialogue process which was so effective before the referendum.
To ensure that the Transitional Constitution is translated into policies and laws and institutions which can achieve the vision articulated in the Constitution. We believe that this is more likely to happen if due consideration is given to the perspectives of different communities and sectors in the drafting of these laws.
In view of the pressing concerns about nepotism, to establish a Board of Selection and Appointment charged with the recruitment of all government positions in South Sudan, based on merit and work ethic.
To improve the training of the South Sudan Police Service so that they know their jobs and become a friend to citizens.
To orient the Chiefs so that they understand the modern system (for example, by seeing courts in action) and can help to apply the right blend of modern and customary laws.

What is the Church offering?

We will study carefully the Transitional Constitution document and engage constructively with the Government on the best way of implementing its provisions. We will use our Justice, Peace and Reconciliation capacities to ensure that our communities have also understood their rights and responsibilities under this important founding document.
The Church will remain united across the two sovereign countries during this transition period to offer solidarity with all the people of the old country and to assist the separation process. This includes our membership to the Sudan Council of Churches, which will also remain one entity in this transition period, modelling ecumenical collaboration from the national to the local level.
We recognize that nepotism and corruption may exist in our own structures. We are challenging this from the top and have taken steps to reduce transactions in cash, as well as bring in external oversight. We plan to take this accountability down to the dioceses and parishes over the next period.

3 Promoting equitable development through effective decentralisation

We need to fight against poverty, ignorance and disease. We will work with the Government in the provision of services that contribute to fighting and eradicating the above vices. We exhort the Government to set up an economic system that is based on equity which means a fair system that provides equal opportunity for all and protects the poor from being manipulated or exploited by the rich. Enabling the full, equitable and integral development of all our people will be the final proof of value of independence.

What has been achieved to date?

The Government has brought roads, growing urban development and infrastructure over the last five years. The maintenance of peace has enabled commerce to thrive, especially in urban areas.

A National Development Plan has been developed in recent weeks and this has been achieved through a genuinely consultative process. This lays strong foundations on which to build collaboration between Government, Public and Private Sector and Civil Society.
Decentralisation has been established as the model of political and economic development in South Sudan, which should ensure equitable development across the country.

What is being asked of the Government?

To strengthen the existing systems of service delivery and expand them to reach more remote areas of the country.
To ensure that in the decentralization of power and authority, the States also remain accountable to the citizens and to the National Parliament.

What is the Church offering?

We will align our development efforts with the Government’s National Development Plan, contributing towards the delivery of basic services where we have most to offer. Our structure of dioceses lends itself to the decentralization model of development; each diocese will be able to support development activities at State level as well as remain part of a national structure.
In most of our dioceses, the Church has clinics and schools with which to support access to education and health during this period where Government services are still in their infancy. We plan to expand these services, working hand-in-hand with Government services providers. We are planning to intensify cultivation across the Church so as to increase food security for communities and make the most of precious land resources.

Realising a greater sense of peace, unity and development has been the core message of this letter. Its advice has largely been directed to the Government of South Sudan, the elected officials whose mandate is to represent the people of South Sudan and operate within the letter and the spirit of the transitional constitution. However, it would be an error to conclude that the transformation of our nation from weakness to strength, from poor to rich, and from volatile to stable is the sole responsibility of the Government. In the Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians 12-27 teaches us the importance of different members of the body working with one another. ‘There are many parts yet one body’; we must realize that the members must have the same regard for one another because, ‘if one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honoured, all honour together.’

St Paul clearly states that we have been commissioned to work in unison, using our diversity and the various talents we each have, to help ourselves and one another. We must look at our differences from a new perspective, not continue to believe that it is because we are different that we are divided. These differences that we assume are dividing us are actually the key to our development and pivotal to harmonious coexistence. We are all responsible for ensuring that the new Republic of South Sudan is built on a strong foundation. Therefore, let us begin working together from this point onwards to ensure that we can achieve peace and non-violence, reduce tribalism and its devastating effects on our communities, and promote equality of opportunities, human rights and access to justice. If we strive in earnest to adhere to the principle of the Body of Christ, no one and no thing can hold back or hinder the people of the Republic of South Sudan again.

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Location:York