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Church peace plan for South Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng of Juba, has published an open letter on behalf of the church and the leading civic groups detailing the steps needed towards reaching a last peace in South Sudan. What began in December as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar has evolved into a tribal war between the Nuer and Dinka that has left several thousand dead and driven over one million people from their homes.  Meeting in talks brokered by Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia, on 10 June 2014 the two sides agreed to a cease fire and pledged to form a unity government within sixty days. However, past deals to end the violence have been not held. In his 6 June 2014 Open Letter, Archbishop Deng stated it was essential that there be an “independent voice for peace and reconciliation” within the country independent of tribe, urging the warring parties to lay down their arms and “listen”. “We have to show we have a common goal no matter what tribe we belong to, what part of the country we come from or what position we have in society. Our independent actions must find unity in our collective aspiration to end war, heal our nation and build momentum for peace, security and development,” the archbishop said.

Sudan Archbishop to broker peace talks: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2013, p 6. May 2, 2013

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The Archbishop of the Sudan, Daniel Deng, has offered to negotiate between the South Sudan government and rebel leader David Yau Yau to end the fighting in Jonglei state

A former Anglican seminarian, David Yau Yau has emerged as the head of rebel militia at war with South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM]. Earlier this month the government accused Yau Yau of having attacked UN peacekeepers in Pibor county. However the rebel leader denied responsibility and said he was ready to talk.

On 10 April Archbishop Deng said he was ready to talk to Yau Yau, “if I know where he is. It pains me when I see our people killing themselves.”

For the past three years the Archbishop has helped broker deals between rebel leaders and the government in South Sudan. In May 2012 the chiefs representing the six tribes in Bor were brought to church-sponsored roundtable talks to help resolve their differences with the state. A treaty was signed to end the fighting and disarm tribes.

Somber celebrations in Sudan on the 1st anniversary of independence: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2012, p 6. July 26, 2012

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Anglican and Roman Catholic Church leaders in the Sudan have warned that relations between the National Islamist Front government in Khartoum and the SPLM government in Juba have “deteriorated to an unacceptable level” and that full scale war may soon erupt between North and South Sudan.

“We reject war as an option to resolve disputes, and we call on all parties to respect the cease-fire and to withdraw their forces from the border region,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, and Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng of Juba on 9 July 2012 – the first anniversary of independence for South Sudan.

While the archbishops noted the blessings that peace and independence had brought to South Sudan, they voiced concern over tribal conflicts in South Sudan and the on-going civil wars in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as the persecution of Christians by the Khartoum government.

The archbishops also called upon the Khartoum government to honor its commitment to allow a referendum for the oil-rich Abyei state, and stated the unresolved disputes over territory had grave economic repercussions for the two countries.

“Oil is a God-given resource that the two Countries should benefit from,” said the two Archbishops.

“We call for a settlement based on international standards for the transportation of crude oil and to recognize the damage caused by the current impasse to the populations of both States. Prices are rising and there are shortages of essential goods, including fuel, which make life difficult for ordinary citizens.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishops plea for peace in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, May 20, 2012 p 6. May 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops of South Sudan, joined by the Archbishop of York, have issued a statement saying they “stand committed” to stop the outbreak of fighting between Sudan and South Sudan.

On 2 May 2012 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding that the two countries cease hostilities within 48 hours and return to the negotiations put forward by the African Union.  The National Islamic Front government in Khartoum and SPLM government in Juba agreed to return to the negotiating table in Addis Abba, but on 3 May the Sudanese air force bombed troop positions in South Sudan and fighting continues across the disputed border regions.

The situation along the border is grim, the Bishop of Aweil reported in a letter posted on the website of the Diocese of Salisbury.

‘The war is back to us,” the bishop wrote and “many people are killed, wounded, displaced and their properties are looted or destroyed by the soldiers from Sudan government leaving them in horrible situation. As I write this letter many of displaced people go to bed everyday without food even one meal in a day is not there, leave alone shelters to protect them from the rains and no clothing to cover their skinny bodies. The displaced persons have experienced great trauma and great suffering now more than ever because no one was affecting war again soon,” Bishop Abraham Nhial wrote.

Meeting form 9 to 11 May in Yei in South Sudan, the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops pleaded for peace. “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.”

“Enough is enough. There should be no more war between Sudan and South Sudan,” the bishops said in their communiqué.

The bishops said they stood “committed to do all in our power to make our dream a reality. We believe that the people and government of South Sudan desperately want peace. We believe the same is true of the people and their liberation movements in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.”

However “a lasting peace will come unless all parties act in good faith. Trust must be built, and this involves honesty, however painful that may be. We invite the International Community to walk with us on the painful journey of exploring the truth in competing claims and counter-claims, allegations and counter-allegations. We invite them to understand the peaceful aspirations of the ordinary people, and to reflect that in their statements and actions.”

In a statement released on 24 April 2012, Archbishop Daniel Deng said that war was not the answer.  “We should learn from the 55 years of war not to return to it so hastily. The blood of those who fought for peace should not have been poured in vain. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace at all costs. God is on the side of those who seek peace.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A New York Times puff piece on the Sudan: Get Religion, January 2, 2012 January 2, 2012

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Archbishop Daniel Deng

I have mixed emotions about focusing the critical spotlight on this New York Times story about the plight of Christians in the Sudan. I am pleased that a story that speaks to the state sponsored persecution of Christians made it into the paper’s pages, yet I would have wished they had fact checked their story.

What we have in the 23 Dec 2011 article entitled “Fewer to Celebrate Christmas in Sudan After South’s Split” is an example of the good quotes/bad facts phenomena — where an article has great color quotes but the facts and context to support the quotes are either incorrect or missing.

Because this is the Sudan, the assertions made by the Times take on a deeper significance. Is theTimes guilty of sloppy reporting or are they acting as a shill (wittingly or unwittingly) for the National Islamic Front of President Omar al-Bashir? Let’s take a look.

The article begins with a snapshot of Khartoum’s Christian leaders on eve of Christmas. It begins with the camera focusing on a sparse living room, itemizing the objects to establish a Christian focus for the article.

Hanging from the wall of Bishop Ezekiel Kondo’s living room — a few blocks from a silver-coated dome marking the tomb of Sudan’s 19th-century Muslim leader, the Mahdi — are a cross, pictures of fellow clergy members and a photo of him with the former archbishop of Canterbury above a small plastic Christmas tree.

A nice word picture — but should not archbishop have been capitalized like the Mahdi in the previous line? The Archbishop of Canterbury not the archbishop of Canterbury. Is this a hint of things to come? The story continues.

Much has changed for Bishop Kondo, and for the nation, since the holidays last year. Though he presides over one of Sudan’s largest churches, he is more in the minority than ever. South Sudan, with its large Christian population, became an independent nation over the summer, making for a Christmas of mixed emotions.

“This Christmas, since Southern Sudanese have gone, we don’t know what the attendance will be, but I would say people will celebrate with mixed feeling of joy and fear,” said Bishop Kondo, who is the bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the former chairman of the Sudanese Council of Churches.

South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly in a referendum early this year to separate from Sudan, the culmination of a peace accord to end decades of war and hostilities with the largely Muslim north. But while South Sudanese Christians constituted the majority of what was the Sudanese Christian community, they are not all of them.

“There is an idea that Southern Sudanese have gone, therefore, the church has gone. That is not true,” Bishop Kondo said. “Sometimes, I am asked, ‘When will you go to South Sudan?’ ‘But I’m not from the south,’ I reply!” he said.

Bishop Kondo is from South Kordofan, a state dominated by ethnic Nuba, who are divided between Islam, Christianity and African traditional religions. Fighting erupted there last May between government forces and rebels allied with the party that now governs South Sudan. …

The scene is set these paragraphs. The predominantly Christian South has seceded from the predominantly Muslim North. Bishop Kondo leads a church in the North that in the wake of independence will now be smaller, but Christians remain in the North.

The article offers voices of other Christian leaders that speak to the difficulties they face, and then Bishop Kondo returns to center stage.

While concerns weigh heavily on the minds of many Sudanese Christian leaders, Bishop Kondo pointed out that Sudanese government officials had expressed a keenness to work with them.

“The Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments have approached us to know what the timetable of services and celebrations are this Christmas, to come and congratulate, but to also make sure people celebrate peacefully,” he said. “I think this is a good gesture.”

“Well and good”, you might say. A nice little story about the Christian minority in a Muslim country trying to make the best of a difficult situation. “What is the problem?”, you might ask. Why is this a dreadful article?

President Omar al-Bashir

For starters, Bishop Kondo is not the head of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Bishop Kondo is Bishop of Khartoum, one of 31 dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. The head of the 4 to 5 million member church that spans North and South Sudan is Dr. Daniel Deng, Archbishop of Juba.

On one level this is not a fatal flaw. Adjusting Bishop Kondo’s title does not change the story arc of Khartoum’s vanishing Christians this Christmas. However, is something else going on?

The Khartoum government has sought to divide the Anglican Church in the past — and at one point appointed an Anglican bishop to be deputy minister of foreign affairs. The government then helped this bishop, Gabriel Ruric Jur, to form a rival Anglican church and seized Khartoum’s cathedral from Bishop Kondo to give to their bishop. Bishop Jur, in turn, endorsed the establishment of Sharia Law in Khartoum for all Sudanese citizens — Muslim and Christian.

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has also refused to divide now that the country is divided, even though the Khartoum government has pushed for church split. Why I raise all of this intra-Anglican detail, is that a Sudanese Anglican reading this story would see in this mistake the spectre of government interference in the church once again. Is the New York Times backing Khartoum’s line, making Bishop Kondo head of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (North). Or, is it  simply ignorance on the part of the New York Times.

The story also fails is in not developing the issue of “Where did all the Christians go?” The article notes that “the larger group of worshipers, administrators and teachers” of one church have moved to South Sudan.  It also states the Sudanese government claims that only three percent of the population is Christian. Bishop Kondo disputes that figure, saying it is closer to 10 to 15 per cent. That should give you a clue that there is story beneath this story.

What is missing from this story is the crucial bit of information about the government of President Omar al-Bashir’s attitude towards Sudan’s Christians.

In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President al-Bashir stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”

When I reported on this issue for the Church of England Newspaper, one South Sudan bishop told me that he believed this meant that it was President al-Bashir’s goal for Sudan to be only two percent Christian. Is that a fact? No, it is a view by an admitted partisan in the affair. However, as Reuters has pointed out, South Sudanese living in the North have been denied citizenship and must petition the government for citizenship or leave the country.

Bishop Ezekiel Kondo and Archbishop Rowan Williams in Jamaica

In Bishop Kondo’s home province, South Kordifan, now on the Khartoum government’s side of the border between North and South, the Islamist government of President al-Bashir has been denounced for engaging in ethnic cleansing, driving Christian Nuba across the border and burning the region’s principle town of Abyei.

The violence prompted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. “Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down,” Dr. Williams reported, adding that the region had also been “overrun by the army, and heavy force is being used by government troops to subdue militias in the area, with dire results for local people. Many brutal killings are being reported.”

The archbishop’s complaints are not likely to deter President al-Bashir.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2008 the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, accused Bashir of directing a campaign of mass murder that has left more than 300,000 civilians dead and driven more than 2.7 million from their homes in Darfur. President al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to be charged by the Hague-based court with war crimes, and the first Arab leader to face the prospect of being tried for atrocities by an international tribunal.

All of this has been treated extensively by Catholic and Anglican news agencies but this background information is missing from this New York Times story. And its absence means the article fails the criteria of good journalism.

First published in GetReligion.

Sudan breaks with the Episcopal Church: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 6. December 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, The Episcopal Church.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The American Episcopal Church’s support for gay bishops and blessings has led the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) to ban Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from visiting the church.  The dis-invitation to Bishop Jefferts Schori follows a vote by the ECS House of Bishops last month to swap its recognition of the Episcopal Church for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the legitimate expression of Anglicanism in the United States.

In a letter dated 15 December 2011, Archbishop Daniel Deng, writing on behalf of the House of Bishops stated that while the ECS acknowledged Bishop Jefferts Schori’s “personal efforts” to support the ECS, “it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality.”

At the 14-16 November 2011 meeting of the ECS General Synod, the church’s House of Bishops adopted a statement reaffirming the stance taken at the 2008 Lambeth Conference which rejected “homosexual practice as contrary to Biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS.”

The bishops said they were “deeply disappointed” by the Episcopal Church’s rejection of the counsel of the wider Anglican Communion on these issues, and for its consecration of a second “gay” bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.

“We are not happy” with the Episcopal Church’s “acts of continuing ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations in the church by some dioceses in TEC; it has pushed itself away from God’s Word and from Anglican Communion. TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.”

As such, the ECS had no choice but to recognize the ACNA as a “true faithful orthodox Church.”  While breaking with the Episcopal Church as a national institution, the ECS said it would continue to “work with those parishes and dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical orthodox churches and faithful to God.”

The break with the Episcopal Church over its stance on human sexuality by the Sudanese church follows the 2009 expulsion of an American missionary, a lecturer at a theological college in Renk, who had claimed the ECS was not opposed to the innovations of doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church.  The Sudanese House of Bishops has consistently rejected gay bishops and blessings, and at the 2008 Lambeth Conference Archbishop Deng called upon New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson to resign.

Archbishop backs a secular South Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 p 7. August 30, 2011

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Archbishop Daniel Deng

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan has called upon Muslim leaders in South Sudan to set aside sectarian concerns and work towards building a free and tolerant nation.

Speaking at a dinner held by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan at the State House in Juba on 20 August for Muslim leaders in Africa’s newest nation, Archbishop Daniel Deng called upon Christians and Muslims to work together for the common good.

Fighting between the Arab Muslim north and the African Christian/animist south has been constant since Sudan gained its independence in 1956. Two civil wars left millions dead and displaced in the south, but culminated in a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which led to the Republic of South Sudan’s independence on 9 July, 2011.

A major source of dissension between North and South during the civil war had been the imposition of Sharia law upon the south by the Khartoum government. The new republic has adopted a secular constitution and civil code, removing Islam from its court system.

In his keynote address, Archbishop Deng called upon President Kiir to create a national religious council which would facilitate dialogue and foster cooperation between the faiths. Interfaith dialogue would also serve to stabilise the new nation, removing religious passions from the political sphere.

President Kiir called for the South Sudanese Muslim community to organize themselves in the wake of the break with Khartoum, and to build relations with the Christian majority.

“Here in South Sudan there is no difference between Christians and Muslims. In our new nation we need unity and development; we have not left you (Muslims) out,” President Kiir said, according to an extract of his speech printed in the Sudan Times.

“Discrimination, marginalisation and many things happened during the war, but it will not happen again in the new South Sudan, whether you are red, white or black, this is our country, you cannot discriminate against me because of my colour. Any South Sudanese has the right to stay here,” the President said.

He also gave his “blessings for the establishment of the South Sudan Religion Council” as proposed by Archbishop Deng, saying he welcomed such a move.

The President also disputed a claim made by the Akhir Lahza newspaper in Khartoum that had been reprinted across the region that claimed that a son by his fourth wife, John Salva Kiir, had converted to Islam on Independence Day. President Kiir noted this was untrue as he has had neither a fourth wife nor a son called John.

Episcopal Church of the Sudan issues independence day manifesto, The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 5. August 2, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has pledged its support to the fledgling Republic of South Sudan, offering its assistance in building the civil institutions necessary for the success of the world’s newest independent state.

On 9 July the House of Bishops of the country’s largest Church released a pastoral letter congratulating the South Sudan government on achieving independence. “We now have a real government,” the bishops said, noting these were “great achievements which must be recognized, celebrated and guarded carefully.”

Independence was not a panacea, however, for all ills. Border disputes with the Khartoum government remain a flashpoint for conflict, while the Lords Resistance Army’s depredations continue in the southwest.

The bishops identified three areas of particular concern for the new country: “Achieving peace and non-violence; Promoting unity by reducing tribalism; and Promoting equitable development through effective decentralisation.”

The first step in building peace was for those “who have taken up arms” to lay down their weapons and “join in the building of the newborn nation.” The second step was to foster respect for the rule of law and equality before the law.

The Church would do its part towards working for “greater justice, peace and reconciliation in South Sudan” by bringing its national presence to the table to help mediate conflicts between the various militia groups and “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.”

The Church would also do its part to end the curse of tribalism.

“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.”

The Church would also do its part 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.”

However, the bishops encouraged the government to set in place 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.

“We are all responsible for ensuring that the new Republic of South Sudan is built on a strong foundation,” the bishops said. “If we strive in earnest to adhere to the principle of the Body of Christ, no one and nothing can hold back or hinder the people of the Republic of South Sudan again.”