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.