Fears of seizure of church property
by David Duprey
The Sudanese government reportedly has given orders for the confiscation of the Khartoum diocesan headquarters, to take effect on Wednesday, July 29, says Canon Andrew Deuchar, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs.
"Clarification is urgently being sought from the Sundanese Ambassador in London, to ascertain the facts of the situation," according to Bishop David Smith (Bradford, England), who visited Khartoum last February. The Archbishop
The Conference Secretary, Canon John Peterson, said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury has designated that the offering from the Conference's Sunday Eucharist will be for the Church in Sudan. This underscores the commitment that the Communion has to this important province. We receive this news (of the report) with enormous concern and we will do everything we can to support the Church in Sudan." (Please see Dr. Carey's letter to the Conference.) Dr Carey made his second visit to the Sudan last October. Since then, there have been several official church visits, including three from the Episcopal Church of the United States. "Increasingly, American Episcopalians are becoming aware of the tragedy of Sudan," said U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. "Episcopalians are actively seeking ways to be in solidarity with our Sudanese brothers and sisters." A three-way companion-diocese link between the Sudan, Bradford and Southwestern Virginia has existed for 20 years.
Ms Margaret Larom, who recently visited the Sudan on behalf of the Department of Anglican and Global Relations in the United States, said: "The Christians there believe that the government is trying to wipe them out, either through violence or starvation." She added that although material aid is needed, the people of Sudan also are pleading for accompaniment and solidarity. "They spoke of Dr Carey's visit and how much it meant to them," Ms Larom said. "They say we are all one family but they don't understand why we are not there for them...They are saying, in effect,`We are keeping the faith alive here--where are you?' Yet, they have absolute faith that God will see them through.
"Our estimates are that half a million people are dead or dying from hunger in Bahr el Ghazal. Although this is partly a natural disaster, the government has prohibited aid." Ms Larom added that only recently the government has given token aid in the rainy season which hinders transport of supplies. The Kakuma refugee camp, in northwest Kenya, holds more than 50,000 people. Half of them are from the Sudan and fully half of the Sudanese are Anglican Christians.
The camp is typical of many refugee camps which receive a great overflow of people from conflict in a neighbouring country. Within Kakuma are seven Anglican congregations which offer pastoral care, training of pastors, and women's services. They also have written 2,000 hymns, which reflect their personal spiritual journey. "This is a suffering Church," said Richard Parkins, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, in the United States. "Yet it is a triumphant Church." In the midst of persecution and forced displacement there has been incredible growth in the faith, with many thousands of people becoming Christians at great personal and social cost.
"The ascent to power of a fundamentalist Islamic government has given rise to an increase in Christian persecution," Mr Parkins added. Christians are under constant surveillance and are often physically abused and jailed, he said. Religious literature cannot be outwardly sold, for fear of arrest. There's a "constant undermining of their faith." People in the refugee camps or on their way to the camps---a journey which can take months or years -- see themselves, in light of the Old Testament, as a wandering people of God. Their question is, "When will we go home?"
Meanwhile, the world is taking notice. Stories are breaking in major newspapers around the world, with secular as well as religious agencies receiving contributions for Sudan. According to Canon Deuchar, two relief organisations are operating in Sudan: the UN's Operation Lifeline, which is primarily an air service; and the Churches' Network, which brings aid by road. Canon Deuchar said the best place in England to send donations is Christian Aid, at Interchurch House in London. This is the aid arm of Churches Together in England, and Canon Deuchar says he is confident that contributions through this agency will have immediate effect.