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.