Saturday, July 25, 2009

Abp Daniel in Roanoke

As Debbie Smith has informed us, Sudan’s Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul and his wife, Mama Deborah, visited General Convention, where he made an impassioned plea for the Episcopal Church to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. His statement was based on this letter to the Episcopal Church.

I was aware that he was going to travel elsewhere in the U.S. after GC, but I haven’t seen many media reports about his presentations or other work.

I was pleased to find this article in the Roanoke Times. Because newspaper articles quickly become unavailable, I am posting the entire article here. I hope articles like this help people throughout the U.S. realize what is at stake in the quest for peace in Sudan.

Archbishop urges unity
The leader of Sudan's Episcopalians says the focus should be on the people in the war-torn country

The Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, Episcopal archbishop of Sudan, visited Roanoke on Thursday to deliver a stern message to the area's Sudanese Christian community.

"I am challenging you, you have a problem and you need to solve it. You are not speaking together," he told an audience of about 17 men and women at Roanoke's St. James Episcopal Church.

Sudanese expatriates need to organize their efforts to draw attention to the plight of people in the southern part of the impoverished and war-torn African nation, he said. Too often Sudanese get caught up in tribal allegiances that make it difficult to speak with a unified voice.

That message resonated with Nelson Walla, who has lived in the United States for about five years and who has tried desperately to get the Sudanese community organized.

"We have to unite and be one nation," he said after the archbishop's talk. "Even within the Sudanese community in Roanoke, wherever you go, this issue [of tribalism] is there. We need to bring all the people together despite all the differences."

The archbishop's visit was a momentous event for the area's Sudanese, who probably number about 120, according to Walla. At first, Bul hadn't planned to visit the area, choosing instead to spend time in more populated places where he could call on American leaders and Sudanese expatriates to pay attention to the plight of southern Sudan, which is today often overshadowed by Darfur, a war-torn area in the west of the country.

But St. James persuaded him to stop in town on the way from Greensboro, N.C., where his son is graduating from Guilford College. The church has become a haven for Sudanese people in Roanoke. About 30 of them gather there every Sunday evening for a short service.

Unfortunately, Bul got lost on the way and arrived at the church's parish hall an hour and a half late. No matter. Roanoke's Sudanese were ready to greet him with cheers and a welcome song. He was also welcomed by Bishop Heath Light, retired bishop of the diocese of Southwestern Virginia, who visited Sudan almost 30 years ago and who has worked to promote cooperation between Sudan and Southwest Virginia.

A 2005 peace treaty brought a tenuous hope of stability to Sudan, which has been engulfed in civil conflict between the north and the south since before the country gained independence in 1955. But that treaty is fragile, Bul said, and violence has flared up anew in the south.

Bul's role, he said, is to bring attention to the conflict and to push people in the United States and around the world to action.

"I want our partners, if they are really trying to help us, they need to step forward, they need to talk to their governments," he said.

I hear Archbishop Daniel speak frequently of the need for U.S. support for the Comprehensive Agreement, and I concur. I am impressed that he is also now speaking openly about the tribalism within Sudan and among its diaspora that have settled in the U.S. They must all get together, or the entire venture will fail.

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