“Deliver” was the one word Archbishop Rowan Williams used to get his message across as he spoke publicly to the global powers and promise-makers while addressing the people of Sudan. The archbishop of Canterbury confronted daily the vulnerability of people that he met on his first visit to the church in Sudan last month. Time and again the word “deliver” encapsulated the urgency of the situation he viewed.
“Rebuilding is harder than tearing down. Expectations of help from the global community is high, but the delivery is slow,” he said.
Speaking of the grim situation, the archbishop told one reporter that he felt Darfur was a “self-destructive tragedy.” He repeatedly reiterated that message to government officials.
Yet, in the midst of this reality, an exuberant welcome greeted him every step on the way during his eight-day pastoral visit to the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Accompanied by the host archbishop, Joseph Marona, he visited five dioceses, including the al Gariya Camp for displaced persons camp near Khartoum.
No quick solutions
“I think people feel so forgotten a lot of the time because the effects of the peace agreement are so slow arriving, the number of displaced persons are colossal, so I think any signal -- even the smallest -- that, that they’re not forgotten does impact on people,” Williams said in a BBC interview from Sudan.
Speaking of al Gariya camp, he said, “One way and another, this area [has] been at war for decades, not just the big civil war, but unrest that goes back as far as the ’50s.” He described Darfur as “a running sore.”
“Nobody has a quick formula for sorting it out. I think the difficulty many people find, or sense they find here in Sudan, is a feeling that some of the donors outside Sudan are waiting for Darfur to clear up before they can fully deliver on promises for the south, and although that’s not a completely accurate percentage, it’s sort of skewing things.” Williams said he saw the situation as one of construction, rather than reconstruction.
“It’s bound to be a future of construction, as infrastructure has to be put in place and there has to be, I think trust, in the national government. The government of the south, people from the south that have been brought into the national government need to display to the population as a whole that there is a worthwhile future for them in this collaborative enterprise.
“Now that means delivery, it means delivery of a fair share in oil revenues promised in the comprehensive peace agreement; it means access to food, employment, clean water, education and basic health care.”
Those who traveled with Williams said he took every available opportunity to pray, lead worship and meet people. He spoke twice with the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, asking for quick intervention by the president to see that confiscated churches and buildings were returned.
Clergy from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal and Presbyterian churches greeted Williams along the journey. In Juba, where he met Christian education leaders, he said the model ecumenical work in Sudan could be “a lesson to learn in other countries.”
A special session of the Sudan Inter-Religious Council met in Khartoum, where the archbishop spoke of Christian-Muslim relations and a need for mutual “respect.” If the work of the government is to be trusted, he said, what is done must be seen as “for the good everyone.”
Rough, unpaved dusty roads did not stop his delegation from visiting remotes areas and traveling by U.N. boat to a World Food Programme distribution center.
In Malakal, a sign above the road welcomed the archbishop and said, “Education is our cry.” In a press conference in Khartoum, one churchman pleaded, “Help us in theological education.”
A joyful celebration of new life and renewed witness came as the team arrived in Renk. Here Williams joined in consecrating the domed St. Matthews Episcopal Cathedral, funded by the Diocese of Virginia, with the church center named for Virginia’s assistant bishop, Francis Gray, who was among Virginians present.
The Diocese of Chicago and a grant from United Thank Offering helped to build a Bible college near the cathedral. Williams assured the people that they would be remembered in his prayers and throughout the Anglican Communion. “You are not forgotten,” he said, as the crowd responded with applause and singing.
“Pray for a peace that will last. Remember God never runs out of love or glory. Be confident! In the heart of each one of us, God has taken up his place.”
For more on the archbishop’s visit: www.anglicancommunion.org/acns