Monday, 7 April 2008

Bearing witness to the situation in Sudan - pray for peace, act for peace and justice

"The church's presence proves to people God is not asleep."
This is just one quote from a moving session at work this morning listening to colleagues who have just returned from a series of visits to northern and southern Sudan.
At the same time as many spoke of the Sudanese people's enormous resilience and tenacity they also mentioned the ever present challenge of peace-making and the desperate problems encountered by internally displaced people who return to what had once been home to discover a devastated infrastructure, leading them to often have to flee their one time homes for a second time. The biggest challenge following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is ensuring its implementation. Issues of peace and security are even more pressing for whole communities in areas of the country where the weapons of the Lord's Resistance Army rule with terror and mean people cannot grow crops or sleep in their own beds.
Then there is the sense of responsibility, or perhaps we could call it lack of action, by the big international players on the situation in Darfur. Surely there is more that the five permanent members of the UN security council can do to bring about meaningful change?
Our general secretary Samuel Kobia closed our session this morning by reminding us of the important rôle in history that the WCC has played in the region, brokering the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972 and helping to set up the Sudan Council of Churches. The huge change in the rôle of the SCC from being a big agency providing services with over 400 employees, to now being more of a facilitator enabling churches to do their own project work and having only 30 staff, brings big challenges for the churches as well.
Reflecting on this morning's session I realised that there was one story of engagement that really showed me that change and hope are possible and that we can all play a part in transforming society. A youth intern from Sudan who worked at the WCC in Geneva on worship and spirituality last year is now very involved in leadership of her local congregation. She has launched a branch of the Tamar campaign which seeks to struggle against gender based violence and abuse. The project she's set up in her local congregation is proving to be a useful platform not only for young women but also in encouragin young men to discuss issues of sexual violence and abuse. More proof that youth programmes empower people to go back and help transform and empower their local congregations.
The church showing people God is not asleep!
Pray for peace, act for peace and justice.
The photo above shows Sudanese Christians worshipping at All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum.