Reconciliation and Rebuilding in Sudan
Bishop Francis Loyo, Anglican Bishop of Rokon in Southern Sudan since 1995, remained in his war-torn country throughout 15 years of turmoil and struggle. Often walking huge distances to be with scattered congregations, he became aware that although he had no physical resources – food, money – to give, nevertheless the simple gift of words and being present among the people was a huge encouragement. That same simplicity and infectious warmth was evident as he visited Geneva recently to meet with representatives of the international community.
The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) now provides an opportunity for rebuilding, despite the tragic death recently of the Southern leader Dr John Garang, and the continuing crisis in Darfur. With this in mind, Bishop Loyo has just completed a visit (20-26th Sept 2005) to Geneva to visit UN agencies and other organisations active in the field. “The church is one of the few civil society organisations with an effective network on the ground” explains Bishop Loyo, “and it has a crucial role to play in the process of reconciliation and rebuilding.”
Meeting with staff at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and diplomatic representatives, and also with the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Sam Kobia, Bishop Loyo was able to explore ways in which the Anglican Church can continue to contribute effectively in coordination with the international organisations. The visit was facilitated by the emerging Anglican Representation at the UN in Geneva, whose Secretary, Revd Mike French explained: “Relationships of trust at the grass-roots are essential, and one of our priorities is to help build credibility and confidence for those at the sharp end of the Communion’s life by providing access to the UN and other agencies at head office level.”
UN staff indicated their willingness to see the church as a partner in reconciliation and human rights work, where they are keen to provide capacity-building and training, and also in the rebuilding of the physical infrastructure after 20 years of war, as well as seeing it as an important player in the strengthening of civil society. They church needs to show willing and demonstrate that it has the capacity at a local level, or in collaboration with other partners such as NGOs.
Bishop Loyo spoke of the need to move beyond thinking of the country in terms of a Muslim north and Christian south and to try to build together as Sudanese: “Reconciliation and rebuilding need to happen both from top to bottom, and bottom to top.”
Bishop Francis has recently been in the UK to complete further studies in Durham. The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has an ongoing link with the Diocese of Salisbury.
Revd Michael French, Secretary to Anglican Representation at the UN Geneva, email@example.com, +41-(0)22 779 0465
Anglican UN Representation www.aco.org/un, World Council of Churches www.wcc-coe.org, OHCHR www.ohchr.org, UNHCR www.unhcr.org