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.

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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.

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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.