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Archbishop Justin's sermon in Juba, South Sudan

The Archbishop offered encouragement to South Sudanese Christians in their role supporting reconciliation in the conflict-torn country

Wednesday 5th February 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's sermon at All Saints Cathedral, Juba, South Sudan, Thursday 30 January 2014

Thank you for your faith – you are an inspiration to Christians. You are not forgotten by Christians. Everyday we pray for Sudan and South Sudan and its Christian people. Your courage and faith gives us courage and faith.

Reconciliation is long and hard work. The first place we find reconciliation is in Jesus Christ. 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. In the revival of 1938, this region spoke of the joy of Christ. As Nehemiah says, the joy of the Lord is our strength. When I see you dance and I hear your sing, my strength is renewed.

It all starts with Jesus. So pray, pray and pray more. In England it’s a lesson we need to learn.

The first step is to face the reality. We may be told to forget. But is it possible to forget what has been done in the last 6 weeks? It’s impossible. When we forget someone it says they don’t matter. Your suffering matters enormously.

When something happens you can plant two types of tree: the tree of bitterness or the tree of reconciliation. Both take a long time to grow, but the roots go very deep and are hard to get rid of. It took us years to have the tree of reconciliation bear fruit in our lives.

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. 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.

Reconciliation is built on relationship. When working in the Middle East I met two leaders, one Jewish, one Muslim, who began while arguing to get to know each other. They mourned together at the death of students. One said of the other, I will walk with him as a human being - on the stony path of reconciliation, we will put flowers. He did not lie or pretend but was determined to build relationship with his enemy.

In a world used to killing, we need to draw on all courage and faith to remember suffering and those killed, to be clear about terrible injustice but to pray that you may love your enemies. This is the beginning of the path of reconciliation.

Then we relieve needs among those suffering. We take risks because we love them. Some people at home said to me, “Don’t go to South Sudan. Why are you going?” I answered because I love the people there and I love Archbishop Daniel. So we have come to be with you.

If we are to meet the needs, we must realise no conflict can be settled without the women. Mothers’ Union, God is calling you to lead reconciliation. Without you, it will not happen. Men, we need to learn some lessons if we’re really honest.

In summary reconciliation needs: reality and telling the truth; and to be lived in relationships, relieving the needs of the suffering and taking risks to show love. When there is enough confidence to meet each other, then honest talking is possible.

I have to spend time repenting. I must be honest – (be ready to say) this was terrible. Otherwise we store up hatred for the next time.

We have to nourish reconciliation. God resources us in reconciliation. The more love we give, the more love we get.

I promise to accompany you and support you in reconciliation in South Sudan. I don’t know how, but God will give us the means. We will find the resources. We cannot do much but God can do everything. You are his people of reconciliation. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God is making his appeal through us, be reconciled to God. Be reconcilers of South Sudan: men, women and children.


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