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Special report: Archbishop visits South Sudan amid continuing crisis

Monday 3rd February 2014

Visiting South Sudan last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged support for ‘the long and hard work’ of reconciliation in the country. Archbishop Justin’s secretary for Anglican Communion affairs, Revd Joanna Udal, who was travelling with the Archbishop, reports from the capital Juba

Archbishop Justin prays at All Saints Cathedral, Juba, South Sudan, Thursday 30 January 2014.

Archbishop Justin called for the fullest support for the long and hard work of reconciliation during his visit to Juba and Bor in South Sudan. The visit, made together with his wife Caroline Welby at the invitation of the Archbishop of South Sudan and Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul, had been long planned as part of his programme to visit all the Primates of the Anglican Communion before the end of 2014.

But the visit took on increased significance in the light of recent tragic events in South Sudan resulting from the political crisis in December.

Arriving in Juba on Thursday, Archbishop Justin said, “I am making this trip to support my dear brother Archbishop Daniel Deng – to say you are not forgotten. I am inspired by your people showing courage and leadership.”

Preaching to Christians gathered at All Saints’ Cathedral that morning, the Archbishop said: “Your courage and faith gives us courage and faith.”

In his sermon he encouraged believers in the “long and hard work” of reconciliation.

“The first place we find reconciliation is in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Only Jesus has the resources to give us so we can be reconciled. Paul says, be reconciled to God through Jesus. Even a loving person runs out of resources to forgive – like a bottle of water which becomes empty. But the reconciliation of Jesus is like the Nile in flood. If you want reconciliation in South Sudan, renew your reconciliation with God in Jesus.”

He highlighted the need to recognise where things had gone wrong and to plant “trees of reconciliation” rather than “trees of bitterness”.

“Both take a long time to grow, but the roots go very deep and are hard to get rid of. In South Sudan when you plant a tree of reconciliation, it will take a long time to grow. It starts being planted by finding out and recognising the truth of what happened.”

He added: “Paul speaks of God’s reconciliation – not counting their sins against them. We all have sins needing forgiving. Be real about where things have gone wrong.”

‘A new habit'

Later that day Archbishop Justin met with representatives of government, civil society and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

He heard of the urgent need for a commitment to peace and for humanitarian assistance to 76,000 people taking refuge in UN compounds, as well as 600,000 internally displaced people. Gratitude was expressed for the Archbishop’s readiness to accompany the church’s work in reconciliation in South Sudan.

Archbishop Justin meets with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Juba, South Sudan, Thursday 30 Jan 2014.

In his address Archbishop Justin stressed that actions – not just words – were important.

“Declarations are made but the conflict continues. Politics is lived by habit; violent conflict has become the habit of politicians. It’s time to set a new habit, to recognise the reality of the impact of such a long war. How much suffering there has been over the last 50/60 years. Long conflict makes conflict into the answer. You need to show other ways – to make a new habit,” he said.

The Archbishop also met with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, hearing from him of the sense of trauma and loss affecting the whole South Sudan as a result of the current crisis.

Afterwards, Archbishop Justin said the pair had “talked of the nature of forgiveness and what is needed, and His Excellency expressed his commitment to be a peacemaker.”

He added: “The work of reconciliation is very hard work. The hardest part is done by the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ. Whatever has gone wrong, the Spirit gives hope and courage to change.”


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