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Sudan welcomes Archbishop of Canterbury's visit as encouraging sign for peace

By Jim Rosenthal

Lambeth Palace
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams   (Lambeth Palace)

[Episcopal News Service]  In the scorching sun amid the desert sands, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams preached Sunday morning at Emmanuel Church in Al Gariya camp, a displaced persons camp an hour from Khartoum, Sudan. Hundreds of people greeted the delegation at the church, a hut-like edifice with a low mud back wall, with children peering through windows and openings to catch a glimpse of the world's Anglican leader.

Williams heard testimonies from displaced people about the difficulties of returning to the South and the need for the return of Church property, confiscated over the years by Sudanese officials, including a guest house, hospital and the original Cathedral (on the grounds of the palace).

The Communion service marked the start of eight days in Sudan with Williams declaring "you are not forgotten." Bishop David Stancliffe of Salisbury, England, is traveling with the party as well as the representative of the Sudan Church Association, the Archdeacon of Warwick, Michael Paget-Wilkes. Hosting the visit is the Archbishop Joseph Marona of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), as well as local Bishops from various dioceses.

In his welcome, Marona said, "you have come at the right time. We need concrete signs of peace which will encourage people and give confidence that the peace is here to stay."

The theme of the visit is "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

Marona noted it was now one year since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. "Implementing the peace needs great vision and courage," he said. "It needs people with peace in their hearts."

At a diocesan welcome service several thousand worshippers came to hear Williams preach. Civic leaders, including the Deputy Governor of Khartoum, were present, as was the Roman Catholic Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako.

In the evening, the British Ambassador hosted a reception for Williams to meet local leaders, NGOs and other faith leaders.

Among those present were staff from World Vision, Christian AID, the Greek Orthodox Church, Tear Fund, Hope and Homes for Children, Together for Sudan, Sudan Council of Churches, and many others.

On February 27, Williams met with the 1st vice president of Sudan, the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, in a forum at the Sudan Inter-Religious Council (SIRC). On February 28, the delegation moves to the South to Malakal, Renk, Juba and Maridi.

Williams will dedicate a new Anglican Cathedral in Renk and, on March 1, will visit a World Food Program project in Malakal.