Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bishop Bullen Dolli, R.I.P.

Bishop Bullen Dolli, bishop of Lui Diocese in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, died early on December 11. Lui has been our companion diocese for nearly 5 years, and many of us knew Bishop Bullen from our trips to Lui and from his visits here in Missouri.

Bishop Bullen was taken ill on October 23 and was sent to hospital in Juba for treatment. On his return home he underwent surgery at Lui Hospital. Following this he was again treated in Juba on November 16, where he was referred to hospital in Nairobi for tests. He underwent further surgery in Nairobi in November 24. By November 26, we learned that he had a cancer diagnosis, was in intensive care, and was not doing well. By December 6, with no improvement, the Bishop’s family had decided to arrange for his transport home to Lui, since further surgery or treatment did not seem likely to help. Our diocese worked with our friends in Lui to try to arrange the transportation. As you may recall, there is no such thing as commercial transportation into the Lui area; it requires a special charter flight, which we were seeking to arrange with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), the organization the flies our missioners into and out of southern Sudan. The next flight we could arrange was on Monday, December 13. However, Bishop Bullen died early on December 11.

Bishop Bullen leaves behind his young (second) wife Lorna and his infant son, Silvan (shown at right in the arms of the Bishop's niece Tabitha), as well as the people of his diocese.

Upon the news of Bishop Bullen’s death, our Bishop Wayne Smith wrote: “Bishop Bullen was a friend and colleague who repeatedly showed great courage, facing difficulties and dangers during his episcopate and before, for the sake of the Moru people.” And further: “His lively faith took root in the gospel of Jesus. May he rest in peace, and rise in the glory of Christ.”

Bullen was consecrated bishop in 1999, since when he has led the Diocese of Lui. He led that faithful Episcopal community through years of bitter civil war, during which many people hid in the bush. During that time, the Cathedral was bombed twice and rebuilt twice – in an awesome gesture of faith, hope, and brash persistence.

I have no doubt that Bishop Bullen was ready for death. When I learned that he died in Nairobi, my greatest grief was that he was not able to return to Lui before his death. The affection for him was great, and I grieve that he was not able to spend some time with the people of his diocese.

I have spent a fair bit of time with Bishop Bullen. Much is made of the “crisis” in the Anglican Communion over LGBT issues. This much I know: After my time in Lui in 2006, Bishop Bullen was informed that I was gay. The next time I saw him, I expected him to shun me. He did not. He greeted me with the same embraces we had shared when I was in Lui.

I don’t know precisely … though I can guess … what kind of theological views Bishop Bullen may have held about “homosexuality” in the abstract. But I also know this: He related to me as a sister in Christ, as I honored him as a brave minister of the Gospel in a difficult place. And he was willing to establish a “companion diocese” relationship with the Diocese of Missouri, where gay people are ordained and same-sex blessings are performed.

I deeply grieve the death of my brother Bullen.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may the people of Lui find comfort and be gifted with new leadership.

Further resources:
Follow the Lui Network – a partnership among Lui, the Diocese of Missouri (U.S.). Blackmore Vale (CofE), and Lund (Sweden) here:
A brief biography of Bishop Bullen appears at … though I think some of the facts are wrong.
My blog about Lui is here: My reflections about my February-March time in Lui appear in blog entries from March 8 through July 2006.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episcopal Church of Sudan in the News

Several news items appeared recently which are worth noting. Many of these are sparked by this Nov. 5-7 meeting in Juba, where the Sudanese Church and its partners met in Juba. Our own Debbie Smith was an active participant in the meeting and was one of the few quoted in the ENS article.

Episcopal News Service reported on that meeting here. They also provide videos from the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune (TEC's Africa Partnership Officer) and Robin Denney (agriculture consultant from TEC for the Episcopal Church of Sudan )

With luck, those videos will play here:

The Rev. Sabune:

Ms. Denney:

ENS also carried an essay by Robin Denney here about daily life in Juba, Sudan.

And continue to watch the Lui Network site for news about the work of TEC's Missouri, England's Blackmore Vale, and Sweden's Lund diocese in Lui.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

News from Lui ... and upcoming mission trip

I am grateful to Beth Felice and the Diocese of Missouri for this information.

There is worrisome news here about Bishop Bullen ... and a call to prayer for the next mission trip from the Diocese of Missouri to the Diocese of Lui (Sudan).

News from Lui Diocese and the upcoming mission trip, prayers requested

With preparation for the next mission trip to Lui which departs in a week, there is sad news about Bishop Bullen Dolli. This weekend Bishop Bullen was not feeling well and was unable to speak, although he was trying to communicate in other ways. There was no medical officer on duty at Lui Hospital. The diocesan staff took him to Juba for medical help. Bishop Bullen is currently resting at a relative's house in Munuki. Diocesan Secretary the Rev. Stephen Dokolo and the Rt. Rev. Bismark Monday, bishop of neighboring Mundri diocese ask us to join them with prayers for the bishop, his family, and the people of Lui diocese.

On Monday, November 1, the Missouri missioners will leave for Lui. Traveling are Rick Kuhn, Emily Bloemker, and Debbie Smith. This trip is about our partnerships and partners. Meeting for one day of preparation in Kampala and 9 days in Lui, teams from Blackmore Vale Deanery of Salisbury Diocese in the Church of England (Anne, Shirley, and Jeannie) and Lund Diocese in the Church of Sweden (Marie and Göran) will join the Missourians.

We're going to track all missioner posts and news through one site at during this trip. One-stop shopping! So if you haven't yet visited, travel over. The site is set up that anyone in the public can read posts, but you have to register to add your own posts or comments.

Debbie Smith has outlined the rough itinerary and goals for this trip on her blog LuLuLui. Do you have questions for mission team members? Come join the community at LuiNetwork.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now in Sudan

Thanks to Lauren Stanley, I have learned about this important Newsweek article about Sudan. Read it! The article talks about the ill effects that do-gooder American efforts have in Sudan. It also speaks to the dangers that our next mission team may be facing.

In the world of serendipity, I also found Episcopal Café’s story about the distinction between charity and justice.

Those stories remind me of what we in the Diocese of Missouri are trying to do with our partners in the Diocese of Lui (in the Episcopal Church of Sudan). We are trying to do development work. Not just charity handouts. We are striving to support efforts that will provide long-term development. And we are doing it in a place where Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul spurns people like me and all the other generous gay/lesbian Christians in our diocese. And people like me continue to support the work of that diocese in Sudan. I support the Diocese of Lui. The Archbishop would call me an unrepentant sinner, while I call myself a Christian. So be it. I will do what the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells me to do. And he shall have his reward.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rhode Island is In

I was delighted to read today from the Episcopal News Service that the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island has entered into a companion relationship with the Diocese of Ezo in the Sudan. Welcome, Rhode Island!

I hope we can soon enter into substantive meetings with all the U.S. dioceses who are engaged in Sudan.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 8 News from AFRECS

I am deeply grateful that AFRECS has begun issuing regular news reports. However, as far as I can tell, they are not maintaining these reports on any website or blog. So I am reprinting their news report here.

Their news report is in blue. I'll occasionally add my remarks in black.

This the AFRECS news-blast for June 8.

= = =


ECS and Agricultural Development: Robin Denney, the Episcopal Church missionary working with the Episcopal Church of Sudan on agriculture, reports that the new ECS tractor has arrived in Juba! The ECS demonstration garden, which she uses with ag students at Bishop Gwynne College, is in the hands of volunteers while the college's students are on break. And the start date of the three-month agricultural training course in Yei that Robin has planned has been postponed until August due to logistical issues. The later date may be better for the 13 farmers slated to participate as they need to get their crops in the ground at home. Robin's work is challenged by the mechanical breakdowns and wire-transfer glitches that characterize so much of life in Sudan, but she continues to visit and consult on the many diocesan agricultural projects and to partner with other organizations on behalf of ECS. For full details, email Robin for her monthly report at and see the ECS Agriculture Assessment and visioning document on the ECS website under the Archbishop's page: For Robin's blog:

I am not in the inner circle, so I'm not sure what's going on with this tractor. But I can give you my perspective.

When Sudan's Archbishop Daniel came to Missouri, he begged us to provide a tractor for our friends in the Diocese of Lui. We didn't do it. We probably will not, because of the feedback we got from the women of Lui.

Consider: We give the men of Lui a tractor to plow their fields. Whom do you suppose will then have to plant, weed, water, tend, and eventually harvest those fields? In the culture of Lui, it's the women of Lui who would be responsible for all that work after the guys use their tractors to plow ever-larger fields with their tractors.

As one woman said: If you want to kill all the women, just give the men a tractor.

So the Diocese of Missouri has intentionally declined to raise funds for a tractor, despite the fact that Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul requested one. .

I assume that Robin Denney, our missioner in Sudan, has found other ways to work with the farmers and farming families so that they will not grind the women into dust. She's working with an agricultural college, so I trust she is finding a way to use the tractor productively, in a way that will work in the communities of Sudan. I hope we can learn something from her work.

Hunger: The European Commission has pledged ?46 million to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) for relief in Darfur and Southern Sudan: Robin Denney reports widespread food shortages, which have led to seed shortages in the new planting season, and inconsistent arrival of the needed rain.

Thank God for this gift from the European Commission!!

Mind you, my friends, the harvest in Sudan is wholly dependent on rains that come at the right time and in the right amounts. When the rains don't cooperate, our friends in Lui can easily be thrown into drought.

The Use of Sudanese Crop Lands: Sudan is leasing vast plots of its agricultural land to foreign investors, especially Middle Eastern countries. For some background on this growing issue in sub-Saharan Africa: and in Sudan:

I have no idea about how/whether this has any effect on our friends in Lui.

Rumbek Peace Conference: The Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) held a peace conference in Rumbek June 1-3, 2010 between the people of Western Equatoria and Greater Bahr al Ghazal, who have recently experienced considerable conflict centered around the grazing of cattle vs. the protection of crop lands. Trinity parish, Wall Street, New York, sponsored the conference. Documents detailing the discussions have been sent to ECS bishops and others.

I know nothing about this conference, but I know that our Lui friends are in the state of Western Equatoria. If I hear anything, I will let you know.

Manute Bol: According to the Facebook group "Manute Bol, get well soon!" as of Monday, June 6th, "Manute is still in the hospital in Virginia, and the focus of his treatment is to treat an infection. Please continue to pray for his speedy and full recovery."

Vice-President Biden: "Biden's Africa trip is all about Sudan":
Pray for the farmers of Sudan, pray for the hungry; pray that the rains come and the crops prosper. Pray for healing for Manute. Pray for Robin and her ministry in Sudan. Pray for wisdom and commitment on the part of the US government and others as Sudan continues to live under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in this critical period before the referendum.
Pray for peace in Sudan.

Teach: There is a new map of the South Sudan dioceses of the Episcopal Church of Sudan:

Partner: Have you joined the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan? It's a great time to do that, as the organization welcomes its second president, the Rt. Rev. David Jones, Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, and thanks its first and founding president, now president emeritus, the Rev. Dr. Richard Jones:

Urge: The Sudan Council of Churches has issued a statement called Choose Life: A Vision for a Peaceful Sudan which sets forth requirements for implementing the January referenda successfully and transitioning to a peaceful future for what is likely to become two Sudans: It's an excellent reference for talking with policy makers about Sudan's future.

Give: To help the Episcopal Church of Sudan with its many ministries and projects:

I would add that Missourians can support the Diocese of Lui by donating here.

Coming Soon: Highlights of the 5th AFRECS conference, held last weekend in Alexandria, Virginia.

= = =

If you wish to subscribe to the weekly Sudan update from AFRECS, send an e-mail to with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

AFRECS conference looks to January 2011 referendum

AFRECS held its fourth annual conference over the weekend. Episcopal News Service yesterday posted a fine article on the conference, the political situation in Sudan, and partnerships between Sudanese and U.S. Episcopalians. I'm including it here in full.

AFRECS conference looks to January 2011 referendum, anticipates outcome
By Lynette Wilson, June 08, 2010

[Episcopal News Service – Alexandria, Virginia]
In January 2011 the people of South Sudan are expected to vote in a referendum that will determine the future of Africa's largest country, a country with a long history of civil war, and rich in oil and other natural resources.

Most experts believe the south will vote for independence.

"I think the south is going to become an independent power in January, one way or another; I hope it's not through a unilateral declaration of independence. I hope it is through a formal referendum," said Georgetown University Professor Andrew S. Natsios, who has years of experience working for the U.S. government on development and humanitarian aid issues in Sudan.

Natsios spoke to more than 50 people gathered June 5 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, for the fourth annual American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan conference: "Sudan in Crisis: How Can We help?"

With 31-dioceses, 26 of them in the south, and an estimated 4 million members, the Episcopal Church of Sudan is one of the largest non-government organizations in southern Sudan. Diplomats, former ambassadors, Episcopal bishops, advocates, humanitarian and development workers, a southern Sudan government official and others interested in preserving peace and facilitating a peaceful path to southern Sudan's independence -- should it come to pass -- attended the June 4-6 conference.

"This year's conference comes at a time of particular importance given the upcoming election," said Richard Parkins, AFRECS' executive director. "The stakes are very high and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done between now and January."

The January referendum is a provision of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005 by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the south and the north's Khartoum-based Government of Sudan headed by President Omar al-Bashir. The CPA ended a 21-year civil war -- fought by the Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south -- that killed more than 2 million people and displaced an estimated 7 million more.

Al-Bashir, a Sunni Muslim, was re-elected in an April election -- the country's first multi-party election in 24 years -- which has been characterized as fraudulent by many in the international community. Al-Bashir is the first head of state to be re-elected while facing war crimes charges.

In March 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region of western Sudan, where government-backed militia continue to attack civilians and raid refugee camps.

During a June 5 workshop/panel discussion to address the prognosis of the CPA, former British Ambassador to Sudan Alan Goulty, now a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, advised listeners against choosing sides.

"When you look at the talk of the independence of the south … we are not campaigning on one side or the other. It is very important, as it is in the Darfur context, that we don’t lead the southern Sudanese to expect that if they can't do a deal on oil revenues and the money stops flowing, that the United States is going to write checks [to cover the income of southern Sudan], to keep the country going three, four, five years until it can export oil directly by Kenya," he said.

Oil revenues account for 95 percent of Sudanese export revenues and 65 percent of government revenues: in the south it accounts for 98 percent of total revenues; in the north its 65 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The CPA calls for equal oil revenue sharing between north and south; the south has the oil reserves, which it transports to the north through pipelines to port on the Red Sea. Should the south secede from the north, the CPA calls for six months of separation negotiations to demarcate the north-south boundary, issues of citizenship -- there are 2 million southern Sudanese living in the capital Khartoum -- and sharing of the country's estimated $35 billion debt.

Experts predict a massive southern migration to follow a secession vote, and, if that happens, the church could play an important part in reconciliation.

"I think churches are well placed to do whatever they can to encourage reconciliation and agreement among Sudanese, and to do so without taking sides because that is going to be necessary whatever the outcome of the referendum," Goulty said. "Southern Sudanese and northern Sudanese are condemned to live as neighbors."

The Central Intelligence Agency estimates the population of Sudan at 42 million people -- 70 percent Sunni Muslim and 5 percent Christian, with most Christians living in the south. Indigenous beliefs account for the majority of the remaining percentage.

Formed in 2005, AFRECS is a 200-member network of individuals, churches, dioceses and other organizations that seeks to focus attention on the priorities of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and enable American friends to assist the church in meeting the needs of the Sudanese people.

"We are very much interested in the future of Sudan, whether it be as a divided country or as a united country. Particularly we have a concern for the protection of the Christian community for whom we have advocated for so many years," Parkins said, in an interview the ENS. "If there is not peace in Sudan, and if the referendum results in conflict and violence, this could have a destabilizing effect on the region. The stakes are not only high for the Sudanese people, but for East Africa."

To help, Parkins suggests that people first become aware of Sudan and its history of crisis, educating themselves, others, and church communities, and by asking elected officials and the Obama administration for a "robust" U.S. policy that holds the CPA's partners to "its faithful implementation." Otherwise, Parkins said, he fears that "peace will unravel and violence will become even more severe than it is already."

Bul Garang Mabil, 26, of Jackson, Mississippi, represented the Diocese of Mississippi's Sudanese Ministry Committee at the conference.

In the CPA workshop, Mabil stood up and asked Deng Deng Nhial, deputy head of mission and finance and trade investment officer for the Government of Southern Sudan Mission in the USA, and one of the panelists: "What is the opportunity for the lost boys?"

[Addendum from Lisa: For those not familiar with the "lost boys," this Wikipedia article provides a general explanation.]

Nhial spoke of south Sudanern [sic] in the context of a "failed state," and acknowledged the lack of educated and trained people necessary to run the country, the predicted southern migration, boundary and citizenship issues, an insufficient banking system, and the difficulty in organizing the referendum itself.

Sudan's two back-to-back civil wars left its institutions destroyed, and people with skills and means left the country. In negotiating a separation agreement, Nhial said, the north and south will need expert help.

"No one wants a return to war," he said.

One of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" Mabil arrived in Jackson in December 2000, after living in a refugee camp in Kenya. He went on to graduate from high school and earn a degree from Millsaps College, a private liberal arts school in Jackson. He now works from the Mississippi Department of Health.

"I hope that the peace will prevail in our country because our people have suffered so much. Right after the CPA was signed, we were very happy to see peace come our country … We hope that if this peace is maintained, development will come to our country," he said in an interview after the workshop.

Many of the lost boys navigated the refugee camps and eventually landed in the United States. Some of them, like Mabil, and John Juarwel, a student at the University of Mississippi who also attended the conference, have gone on to higher education.

"They have the know-how, but the problem is how to take that back and be productive members of society," Mabil said.


In his experience, Natsios, the professor and Sudan expert, said the most important thing people can do to help Sudan is focus their efforts on building private institutions, including primary and secondary schools and colleges, with connections to funding sources outside Sudan.

At right: Jennifer Ernst, co-founder of Hope for Humanity, Inc. and coordinator for partnerships for the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and Virginia Suffragan Bishop David Jones, president-elect of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, during the AFRECS conference.
Photo Credit:Constance Wilson

In 1999, Jennifer and Darryl Ernst, members of Christ Church in Glen Allen in the Diocese of Virginia, became involved with efforts by St. Bartholomew's Church in Richmond to resettle Sudanese refugees. Later they came to know Maker Mabor Marial, a lost boy who eventually became like a son to them, Jennifer Ernst said.

In December 2004, the Ernsts and Marial founded Hope for Humanity, Inc., an organization dedicated to educating future leaders in Sudan. Their efforts resulted in Hope and Resurrection School, an Episcopal secondary school now in its third year serving 137 students, 33 of them girls, in grades 9, 10 and 11 (one new class has been added every year).

Located in the village of Atiaba, in the Diocese of Akot, Hope and Resurrection has an open admittance policy and is run by a Sudanese headmaster with 30 years' education experience, Ernst said.

The Ernsts raised money for the school by telling the Hope for Humanity story in churches throughout the diocese, garnering support mostly one small donation at a time, Jennifer Ernst said.

In another example, Carol Francis-Rinehart, co-founder and director, and Daniel Majok Gai, board member, explained in an interview with ENS, how Denver, Colorado-based Project Education Sudan is working with local populations to build schools and create a framework for education in four Jonglei State communities, including the Marc Nikkel Cathedral Primary School, a project undertaken in partnership with the Diocese of Southwest Virginia and Christ Church Cathedral in the Diocese of Indianapolis.

Gai will move back to Sudan next year to work with Project Education Sudan in country, to help communities create micro-economies to support their schools.

To learn more about Project Education Sudan's other projects, teacher training, financial literacy, water wells, etc., click here.

Companion relationships

The Episcopal Church's long-standing support for Sudan is manifested through its partnerships and companion diocese relationships, programs supported by Episcopal Relief & Development, and advocacy work of the Office of Government Relations.

Last July, the Episcopal Church's General Convention passed legislation in support of a lasting peace in Sudan. Through the companion relationships, Episcopal dioceses in the U.S. have supported critical social services including schools, clinics, water wells and church construction.

Ernst also serves as partnerships coordinator for the Episcopal Church of Sudan. During a workshop focused on companion diocese relationships, Ernst said that many of the church's 31 dioceses are looking for partners: from prayer partnerships, friendships, to buying desks or other education materials, to building schools and cathedrals.

"It's really important to have partnerships when we step out of our comfort zone and share a friendship with people from another country and another culture," Ernst said.

Forming a companion relationship with the Diocese of Kajo Keji transformed the Diocese of Bethlehem in northeast Pennsylvania.

"We have churches where there aren't towns anymore," said Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall, explaining the impact of coal mining on the region.

The diocese's relationship with Sudan started with a Sudanese seminarian from Virginia Theological Seminary sharing his story about growing up in civil war-torn Sudan. A few visits to refugee camps in Uganda, and eventually, a trip to Sudan, the diocese with a $1.2 million annual budget, set out to raise $3.2 million for its New Hope Campaign and has raised more than $4.4 million to date, Marshall said.

"Leadership has to have a vision. The group itself will not exceed the passion of the leadership. I think that is the key point. If you are in a partner relationship and haven't gotten your bishop over there, this would be the time," he said.

The New Hope Campaign is dedicated to rebuilding a college destroyed by war and building a primary and a secondary school in Kajo Keji. Recognizing that it is a small organization set on rebuilding a college in another country, the diocese sought outside professional consultation to teach leaders how to ask for money. Marshall, himself, has pledged enough money to the project that he has had to extend his work life by two years, he said.

"This a theological enterprise," Marshall said. "The congregations that are functioning are the ones whose focus is on mission … Eventually it became clear that what we were doing was inviting people to enter into a kind of unity with Christ that they hadn't experienced … as a group."

-- Lynette Wilson is a staff writer and editor for Episcopal News Service.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Parkins on Sudan

Episcopal News Service has posted an op-ed piece by Richard Parkins, Executive Director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (AFRECS). I am personally fond of Mr. Parkins and I greatly respect his work for AFRECS. However, some parts of his essay give me pause.

I encourage you to read his essay and offer your comments. These are mine.

He describes the April parliamentary elections as "seriously flawed." In my view, the most serious flaw was that the candidates in southern Sudan bowed out of the elections at the last minute, thereby reducing the options of our friends in southern Sudan. I believe he is wrong to lay the blame on the Khartoum government and its President, Omar al-Bashir.

Richard Parkins doesn't hammer home the point, but I will remind you that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been declared a war criminal, because of the genocide he has perpetrated in Darfar. There is an international warrant for his arrest. There is no doubt (in my mind) that he is a Very Bad Guy.

Parkins rightly points out that many elements of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement have not been pursued. I join him in hoping that progress will be made, as well as dismay that little time remains to do so.

I am a bit dismayed that Parkins seems to cast all the southern Sudanese as the "Good Guys" and all the northern Sudanese as the "Bad Guys." I don't believe it's that simple. Remember, for example, that there are many Christians and Episcopalians living in the northern portions of Sudan. Further, as Parkins observes, Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul is in a position to advocate on behalf of all the Sudanese Christians.

Despite my quibbles, I am grateful to Richard Parkins for trying to get the Sudan situation on the radar of the Episcopal Church. Our brothers and sisters in Sudan have made great strides during the peace agreement, and I fervently pray that peace endures in Sudan.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

AFRECS National Conference

Debbie Smith to Lead Session

Episcopal News Service has a fine story about the upcoming conference of AFRECS (the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan). Promoting peace and stability in Sudan's dramatically changing political landscape and making that country's peace an American foreign policy priority will top the agenda for the fifth annual conference.

Some of you will remember that we hosted AFRECS’s 2nd annual conference at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.

Who/What is AFRECS? As ENS reports: “AFRECS is a 200-member network of individuals, churches, dioceses and other organizations that seeks to focus attention on the priorities of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and enable American friends to assist the church in meeting the needs of the Sudanese people.”

This year’s AFRECS conference will be held June 4-6 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Click here for registration information. Through workshops and speakers, the conference will address the role of U.S. and global partners in Sudan's future, advocacy on behalf of peace in Sudan, church building, partners in ministry and development.

Among the plenary sessions and workshops, one on June 5 will address the life cycle of companion diocese relationships. It will be led by Debbie Morris Smith, a member of St. Timothy’s and mission coordinator of our Companion Diocese Relationship Committee.

The ENS report includes this:
Debbie Morris Smith's first introduction to Sudan came 10 years ago while teaching English as a second language to refugees in Des Moines, Iowa.
"There were a lot of Sudanese women," Smith explained in a telephone interview, and as a result, "I became interested in Sudan, the different tribes … before that I had no clue."
Later, after her husband Wayne Smith, was elected bishop of the Diocese of Missouri, Morris Smith traveled to Sudan with a group from the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton.
What started as an informal visit by a church group grew into a formal companion relationship between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui, Smith said, adding that the diocese is working to raise money to build a diocesan center in Lui. .
Today Smith serves on the board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and as the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri's mission coordinator and liaison to the Diocese of Lui. She will lead the companion diocese workshop.
I do not know who (besides Debbie Morris Smith) will be attending the AFRECS conference from the Diocese of Missouri. But anyone can register. Just go to this page to register.

Walk for Water at St. Martin’s

For the third year, on May 8 St. Martin’s Episcopal Church (Ellisville) hosted a “Walk for Water” to benefit water projects in our companion diocese with Lui in the Episcopal Church of Sudan. In fact, participants had the option of walking, jogging, running or biking over a course of 1, 3, or 5 miles.

Beth Buehler, a member of St. Martin’s and member of the Companion Diocese Relationship Committee, was a driving force in the organization of the event.

Beth Felice (Communications Director, Episcopal Diocese of Missouri) has posted a delightful video of St. Martin’s “Walk for Water” here. Or view it here.

St. Martin's Church: Walk for Water for Sudan from Episcopal Diocese of Missouri on Vimeo.

You can read the story from the St. Martin’s website here.

The event raised over $6,500. Donations are still being accepted at St. Martin’s.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sudan Election Extended by 2 Days

There have been stories about delays in getting the Sudan election going – stories of glitches in erecting polling places, mistaken deliveries of ballots, foul-ups with voter registration lists, and so on. By the way, none of that surprises me, given that it’s been over two decades since Sudan last held an election.

It was widely reported that some southern Sudan leaders were calling for the election period to be extended. I didn’t expect that to happen.

While I was hunting for news sources today, “BREAKING NEWS” began to crop up on site after site. To my surprise, it appears that Sudan has agreed to that extension. The voting period will be extended by two days. You can read the story at the Times, among other places.

The polling places will now stay open into Thursday.

Getting News from Sudan

I was pleased this weekend that NPR had a few stories about the elections in Sudan. But I wanted more detailed, local news, so I was still frustrated. So today I went on a news-hunt. Here I will share some of the sources I have found. I beg you readers to share other sources here in the comments.

Sudan Tribune: First and most basic is the Sudan Tribune. Everyone seems to cite this as one of the core news sources. Right now, their front page is all about the elections.

New Sudan Vision: The New Sudan Vision is a more recently-born source of journalism. Their front page, too, is almost entirely devoted to the elections.

Voice of America is carrying a great deal of coverage, too. I’m not sure how to interpret their journalistic perspective. But if you click here, you can get a digest of all their news about east Africa – most of which (today) is about Sudan’s elections.

VOA “Special Report”: Voice of America has compiled a single page that seeks to compile all the news about the Sudan elections. Click here to find it. In particular, I appreciated a section near the bottom of that page, that has over a dozen links to other news sources. I've just begun checking out a few of them.

Sudan Votes has articles and several interviews in English – so far all focused in Juba. I enjoyed the “man on the street” interviews that their journalists are doing. This site felt more “first person” than any of the other sites I found. [Debbie, they also have some stories in Arabic; perhaps you can explore those.] They are doing first-person interviews and reporting, unlike most of the "national" sources I found.

I also discovered South Sudan Nation, which is another online newspaper. I found it rather more extreme, negative, and polemical than the Sudan Tribune and New Sudan Vision. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. If it the "Fox News" of Sudan? I can't tell.

All of these sources are providing more “on the ground” reporting than I’ve seen in U.S. sources.

I’ll share other sources if I find them. Likewise, if you find other good sources, please let me know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More on Sudan Elections ... Keep Praying

We are now well into the prayer vigil for Sudan and the elections.

Episcopal News Service has a good story on the Sudan elections here. It begins:
As Sudan heads to the polls this weekend to hold its first democratic elections in 24 years, Episcopalians in the U.S. have been ramping up advocacy and raising awareness of the issues that confront Africa's largest and most war-torn nation amid fears that it could plunge back into civil war.
Richard Parkins and Russ Randle, two leading Episcopal Church advocates for Sudan, have continued to pursue the U.S. Congress and Obama administration pressing them to make the African country's peace agreement a priority and to ensure that fair elections are conducted.
Read the entire story from ENS.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Political Situation in Sudan

[This text is copied from the e-newsletter of the Diocese of Missouri, dated April 8]

If you are following current events in Sudan, you will note the increasing rhetoric and stridency in statements from most participants approaching the upcoming elections. The pronouncements are unwavering and dire, they hold no room for negotiation, and this is not a two sided conflict, but a complex situation.

Bishop Wayne Smith has often reminded us that the on-the-ground situation in Lui is fluid. We do not know as we are planning each mission trip, if some event will change the possibility of travel: political, weather, health. We do not know, we will not know. We open our hearts to understanding what that not-knowing might feel like for our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Lui, and we also learn from their deep faith in Christ which triumphs over this not-knowingness. And we pray.

The new chairperson of the diocesan Companion Relationship Committee, the Rev. Emily Bloemker, articulates this clearly, “We’re the church, we’re not an NGO.” Our initial work with Lui diocese focused on our relationship with them, and an immediate need for available water. As our last deep water well is being completed, our common work is refocusing on supporting the ministry of the Lui diocese. “It’s about establishing a permanent home for the diocese, a place to carry out ministry with dignity.” Make no mistake, there are a lot of needs: the hospital, ongoing support of the Mothers Union, education, Lui diocese infrastructure, among others. Last year the missioners asked Bishop Bullen outright, “It takes money to make these mission trips happen, would you rather use the money spent for our travel on some of these identified needs.?” And he said no, the most important thing is that you come here, that you share worship and fellowship and relationship.

In the fluid process that is Sudan elections, it is possible for the Carter Center to be uninvited from election process oversight on April 1, receive close to an apology and re-invitation on April 3, to announce today that ex-president Carter will be in Sudan during the elections; possible for a party to threaten complete countrywide boycott of elections, then to clarify only certain regions. In this back and forth, we pray alongside our brothers and sisters in Lui diocese.

Prayer Makes Community

The Diocese of Missouri has posted a reflection by the Rev. Daniel Handschy, who has served as missioner and chaplain on a couple of mission trips to Lui. We reproduce it here.

Prayer makes community and community requires prayer

Watch with Me One Hour: excerpt from Church of the Advent’s newsletter, The Scroll (April 2010), by the Rev. Dan Handschy, rector of Advent, and chaplain to the missioners on our most recent trip to Lui in November 2009.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked Peter, James and John to stay awake with him while he prayed. Whenever a person is faced with a difficult situation, it helps to know that others are praying, too.

On our most recent trip to Lui, one of the missioners became very ill, most likely with giardia, (a parasite) which not only messes with a person’s digestion, it also makes a person feel depressed and anxious. The missioner felt not only physically miserable, but emotionally terrified. She had a long night ahead of her. We asked if she wanted us to pray with her. The bishop took the lead, and we all laid hands on her while he prayed. Then, I asked her if she would like someone to sit with her through the night. With tears, she said yes.

We quickly agreed to take an hour each during the night. We put a chair outside the door of her room, and put a candle on a table, so if she woke up, she would see the light of that candle. We made it through that night, and the medicines began to work. She felt a little better in the morning, although it would be weeks after we got home that she would feel back to par.

At a retreat we had in February, she remarked on how the whole event had changed her perspective on prayer. When the bishop had prayed for healing, and we all had laid our hands on her, she said she felt connected to the whole of Christian history.

Anointing and laying on of hands is a very ancient rite for healing. She said that before Lui she hadn’t understood what it meant—now, she knew that it meant others were with you in the crisis. She also said she would never go through the Maundy Thursday Vigil the same way again.
I know from my two trips to Lui, we are a people who think we can do things on our own. But, when it comes right down to it, none of us can get by alone. Sitting through a long, lonely night under African skies makes a person realize how connected we are to one another. The biggest discovery that we can make in mission, certainly the biggest discovery that any of the missioners has made in Lui, is that prayer makes community and community requires prayer. On this side of the ocean, we think we can do without either, but we cannot.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Developments in the Sudan Elections

On April 1, our friends in the Save Darfur Coalition posted a message that read, in part:

Late last night, the largest opposition party in Sudan (the southern based Sudanese People's Liberation Movement) announced it was withdrawing its candidate for president of Sudan from the national elections scheduled for April 11-13. The leaders of SPLM did so reportedly because they were convinced that elections were too flawed to move forward and they did not want to legitimize a process that led to the re-election of President Omar-al Bashir, the architect of the Darfur genocide.

This morning, the remaining major opposition parties (with one exception) followed suit and withdrew their candidates from the presidential ballot. Save Darfur has long said that we do not believe free and fair elections are possible in Sudan given the oppressive political environment that has preceded them. And in the last two days, the decisions by the major opposition parties to withdraw underscore that fact.
LuiNotes is not an official blog of the Diocese of Missouri, nor has the Diocese of Missouri taken any position on these sudden developments. The blog-owners simply want our friends to be aware of these developments.

For more information, read the BBC’s coverage. They offered this headline on Friday, April 2: “US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is holding a second day of crisis talks after a boycott threatens Sudan's first multi-party national poll in 24 years.”

The story reads:

Most major parties have withdrawn from the presidential elections and some groups have also pulled out of the parliamentary and municipal polls.

Several key parties in the north are also now considering a total boycott.

President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, now faces only one major presidential challenger.

Veteran Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi has confirmed that candidates from his Popular Congress Party would contest all the polls.

But the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says if the other parties go for a total boycott, the credibility of the elections would be damaged almost beyond repair.

'On fire'

The southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - which serves in a coalition at national level with President Bashir - first announced it was boycotting the presidential election over fraud and security fears on Wednesday.

Other parties in the north followed suit, saying they believed the electoral process had been rigged in favour of Mr Bashir's National Congress Party.

They said the registration process had been flawed and their access to state media and rights to hold rallies restricted.

Then on Thursday evening a loose alliance of parties opposed to President Bashir announced their total withdrawal.

Spokesman Farouk Abu Issa said to go ahead with presidential, parliamentary and municipal vote would risk putting the country "on fire".

"So we ask[ed] for a postponement until we can get a conducive atmosphere for a fair election. The government said no and Bashir said no," he said.

Mr Gration is now trying to convince one of the main northern opposition politicians, former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, his Umma party should contest at least some of the polls for parliament and regional governors' posts.

The party is currently debating whether to opt for a full boycott - if it does, all of the major opposition parties with the exception of Mr Turabi's are likely to follow suit.

Our reporter says it is believed Mr Mahdi will not return to the presidential race, but could let his party members contest the other elections.

Mr Gration said earlier that if the main opposition withdrew from the legislative elections it was not clear whether they would still be held.

Threat over referendum

SPLM presidential candidate Yassir Arman announced on Wednesday that he was pulling out of the election.

He also cited a lack of preparedness for the election in the Darfur region, where a rebellion has been taking place since 2003.

"The people of Darfur in the internally displaced people's camps asked the SPLM not to be involved in the election," he said.

The SPLM is still planning, however, to contest the parliamentary and municipal elections elsewhere in Sudan on the same day as the presidential poll.

President Bashir has threatened to cancel a promised referendum on independence for the south if the SPLM boycotts the poll.

However the SPLM and Western countries have said that the referendum and the election are separate issues, which should not be linked.

The SPLM joined the unity government in 2005 as part of a peace deal ending a two-decade civil war.

Some 1.5 million people died in the conflict between the mainly Muslim North and the South, where most people are Christian or follow traditional beliefs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prayer Vigil for Sudan & Lui

The Diocese of Missouri has now organized a prayer vigil for the Sudan elections and our companions in Lui, thanks to Beth Felice (our Director of Communications). You can read the story here.

From the story:

Lui, Sudan, is eight hours ahead of Missouri; a prayer vigil is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. Saturday, April 10, through 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 13 (Central Time).
We have an online sign-up sheet for the vigil.
Send an email for instructions/password, and please include your name/parish. Not online much and still want to sign up? Call 314-255-1387 with your name/parish/phone and we’ll add you to the sign-up sheet.
We will all have practice in watching and praying with Jesus next week, from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. Then, after Easter, we can pray for our friends in Sudan from April 10-13, and sign up for an hour’s time slot. Follow Beth's instructions above.

I know some of the middle-of-the-night hours will be difficult for us in Missouri. I hope our friends in Blackmore Vale can cover those hours, since our dead-of-the-night is their morning.

There will also be a prayer service and Eucharist to kick off the prayer vigil at 12:00 noon, Saturday, April 10, at St. Timothy’s Church, Creve Coeur. Also from the diocesan news:
We hope to have our friends and new mission partners from Blackmore Vale, Diocese of Salisbury, UK join us by Skype. We’re also working on a simultaneous gathering at Lui Cathedral in Sudan.
When the Companion Diocese Relationship Committee held its day-long strategic planning meeting in February, the entire meeting was held via Skype with our partners in Blackmore Vale. It really is almost as good as being there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Call to Prayer for Sudan

A time of critical importance is approaching in the life of the Sudanese nation, the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and our companions in the Diocese of Lui. The Companion Diocese Relationship Committee is calling the Diocese of Missouri to three days of prayer (April 11-13) in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Sudan.


When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in January 2005, it marked the end of 50 years of nearly-constant civil war between the Khartoum-based government in northern Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in the south.

Besides ending the civil war, the CPA set out mechanisms to develop democratic governance through elections in April 2010, establish a firm boundary between northern and southern Sudan, share oil revenues equitably, and set a timetable by which southern Sudan would have a referendum in January 2011 on its independence.

For quick reference, you may want to consult the Wikipedia articles on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 2010 elections, and the 2011 independence referendum.

As discussed recently at LuiNotes, implementation of the CPA to date has not inspired confidence among our partners in Lui.

I remember when I was in Lui in early 2006, and people were so optimistic about southern Sudanese governance. I snapped this shot of one priest's t-shirt, which had the flag of southern Sudan on it.

Current Situation

The April 11-13 elections are of crucial importance, as the people of Sudan are supposed to elect a president and members of parliament. Our partners in Lui fear the election will be neither free nor fair. There is suspicion that the census conducted over the past couple of years has not been valid. There is fear that war could erupt in the aftermath of the elections, regardless of the outcome, even before the potentially tumultuous January 2011 referendum regarding independence for southern Sudan.

Prayer Vigil

Missouri’s Companion Diocese Relationship Committee is calling for a prayer vigil during the time of the election – from April 11 (Sunday) through April 13 (Tuesday). Because Lui is 8 hours ahead of Missouri, this translates to 4:00 p.m. on April 10 (Saturday) to 4:00 p.m. on April 13 (Tuesday).

The first visitors from Missouri traveled to Lui in 2003, while the civil war was still active. The constant refrain of the Moru people then was: “We thought you had forgotten us, but now you have come.” That has been the constant refrain through the establishment of the covenant between Lui and Missouri in 2006 until the present day.

Now, our friends in Lui are asking our prayers as they enter this anxious time in the life of their nation.

Let us pray:
  • for free and fair elections in Sudan
  • for peace in the aftermath of the elections
  • for the safety of our Episcopalian friends in the Diocese of Lui
As we pray, let us remember that the Episcopal Church of Sudan comprises the entire nation of Sudan – not just those in southern Sudan, but also those Episcopalians living in the Muslim-dominated states in northern Sudan. Let us remember all the other Christians in Sudan.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mary Seager Lui Video

Mary Seager was one of the missioners who traveled from Missouri to Lui in late 2009. I just recently discovered her video on our diocese’s website. I hope you will enjoy it.

(c)2009 Mary Seager, Mission trip to Lui from Episcopal Diocese of Missouri on Vimeo.

If you have any questions, just post them here, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sudan on PBS

There are many horrific stories today about suffering among the peoples of the world. Haiti and Chile are only the most recent and high-profile, as a result of the earthquakes here. The news media have a short attention span, and that’s not only their fault; it’s the fault of those of us who watch the news, read the newspapers, and listen to news programs … and our own short attention spans and our empathy overload.

Lane Denson posted a reflection Wednesday on this Sunday’s readings, in which we will hear the story of Moses encountering God in the burning bush. In one passage, he writes:
The church today seems often to find itself in a vocational wilderness, wondering just what is its ministry and to whom, waiting for a burning bush when the whole world is on fire.
Indeed, the world seems to be on fire with disaster, poverty, hunger, disease, and many other physical maladies, as well as the spiritual maladies of despair, cynicism, and hopelessness.

It has seemed that Sudan’s situation has fallen off the radar, as news media focus on more dramatic disasters. So I was pleased last evening to see that the PBS Newshour devoted a significant segment to the situation in southern Sudan. It addresses the humanitarian situation, as well as the complicating political situation. I encourage you to watch the 7-minute segment here.

If that doesn’t work, watch it (or view the transcript) on the PBS site here.

The PBS story highlights some issues that have commanded the attention of the Companion Diocese Relationship Committee as we work with the people of Lui.

  • Next month, the people of Sudan will hold elections to choose representatives of the government. There is a strong suspicion in southern Sudan that those elections will be neither free nor fair.

  • Then, next January, the people of southern Sudan will hold a referendum on whether to remain a semi-autonomous part of Sudan or become a separate country. Both options hold some severe dangers.

  • Somehow, between all this, there must be negotiations about the demarcation of the border, the equitable distribution of oil revenues (given that most of the oil comes from southern Sudan but most of the revenues have been reaped in northern Sudan), and whether southern Sudan is receiving fair support and resources of the government based in Khartoum.

  • The report observes, as has Daniel Deng Bul (Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan), that much of the current violence is not simply “northern Arab aggressors vs. southern African victims,” but is based on age-old tribal conflicts within southern Sudan. I have heard that overcoming tribal friction is one of the priorities of Sudan's Archbishop.
On the other hand, there is one point where the PBS story diverges from our experience with the people of Lui.

  • The journalist and interviewees talk about the desperate lack of water and the effects of that shortage. That may be true in the Jonglei province, where the PBS story was filmed. I perceive the situation is somewhat better in the diocese of Lui.
  • The Diocese of Missouri has funded the drilling of 9 deep-water wells in Lui, and other organizations (such as Oxfam and the World Bank) are now drilling in the Lui diocese. The larger villages, except in the far north, mostly have access to clean water. But there are still many people in some villages and in the bush who do not.
  • One of the observations of our last missioners (from their Nov.-Dec. trip) is that the availability of water has made a huge and positive difference in the lives of the people of Lui. Fewer children in Lui now exhibit the horrible symptoms of dehydration and bad water, and fewer exhibit the tell-tale signs such as distended bellies and red hair. Many more children are now wearing school uniforms because, now that they have water (and water is located near diocesan schools), they can attend school.

Some of you may wonder why Doctors without Borders, featured in this PBS story, is not working with us in Lui. I don’t know the answer exactly. But I do know these things.

  • Doctors without Borders works in the most dire venues. I understand they have worked with Lui hospital in the past. Perhaps Lui is no longer in the “most dire” category, due to clean water and some development.

  • The Italian group CUAMM [aka Doctors with Africa] is now providing some support to Lui hospital. But the conditions remain dire.

  • Missouri and Lui are now beginning to work together to implement a parish nursing program, so that primary needs can be addressed in the villages before illness progresses to the level that requires hospitalization in Lui. That was a primary topic of discussion in November, between our missioners Deb Goldfeder and Susan Naylor and the leaders of Lui diocese. A parish nursing model mirrors the vision that Dr. Fraser brought to Lui in the 1920s, and it seems still promising now. We hope that initiative will reduce the number of people who need hospitalization due to preventable illnesses.
I have one last, personal observation after watching the PBS segment last evening. I was struck by the video footage which showed all the flies circling and landing on the Sudanese people. It took me back to this reflection I wrote after my February 2006 time in Lui. My chief reservation about the PBS piece is that it made the Sudanese appear helpless victims. To be sure, many are in dire straits. But they are not merely victims. The people we know are faithful Christians, working to do their best in a miserable situation. Don't let the late-night-television images govern your perceptions of our friends in Sudan. They are much more than that.

I am glad PBS put Sudan back on the "front page" this week. I hope some of you will view the footage.