Following the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem in June 2008, the Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda commissioned a team to visit the Province of the Sudan in late November 2008 on behalf of the GAFCON Primates' Council (this comprised Rev Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Rev Dr Vinay Samuel and myself). This was to investigate ways in which other Anglican Provinces might be able to establish partnerships with the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and to work together with the Church in addressing the many challenges associated with poverty that face the Sudan. This invitation confirmed a calling that GAFCON related churches in the UK were already sensing. So in response Anglican International Development (AID) for Relief and Change was established and has begun the process of developing such partnerships.
Rationale and “What will AID do?”
There is no need of another agency like the existing agencies. But there is need for an entirely different kind of agency. This is because a significant amount of money for Christian development agencies comes from local churches in the developed world. But agencies can then find it difficult working with local recipient churches. Inevitably they expect churches in the developing world to meet high professional standards in any development work. However, they do not necessarily see their role as building such capacity in these churches. That, of course, is a difficult task as development has to be understood from the perspective of the local church. Because of secular and other pressures, some agencies find this hard to do.
Churches, of course, are not development agencies. They seek to address poverty in their own way. Central to their approach is that a new identity, new hope for the future and new personal development - fundamental to any change in persons and communities - comes through the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. Development carried out even by Christian agencies that is not primarily working with the Church, can cease to bear any significant witness to Christ. The Church, the bride of Christ, can become marginal to development activities. The gospel is then not at the centre of development activity. Also it is generally agreed by development agencies, Christian or secular, that churches, certainly in countries like the Sudan, are the longest standing of community organisations and are the most widely trusted of social groups by the poor.
With 30 years experience in the development field, people behind AID are seeking to address the above concerns. The organization is to be project focused in seeking to address poverty. The institutions it hopes to build will be the development departments of churches through capacity building partnerships. AID will not build itself.
Its initial pilot project has been a project for Christmas 2008 to support the Decade of Evangelism in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) through the provision of bicycles for pastors in the Diocese of Rumbek; and a number of churches have been asked to help. It is then hoped that major capacity building in ECS will take place through projects on children's education and health care; micro-finance development; and vocational training for young people returning from exile – these are all needs identified by ECS. To achieve these goals AID is planning to work with a development partner that enjoys very high regard among international development agencies for its professionalism.
The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
The Church in the Sudan has survived an onslaught since the 1960s of two wars totalling over 40 years of war. It is estimated that as many as 2 million have been killed. The Church has been able to survive because of the faith of its members. The testimony of Sudanese Christians has been that through the keeping power of God they have been able to survive terrible trials and traumas. The challenge now is to build on this spiritual capital and have a faith that leads to the “good works” of transformational development that addresses economic and social issues.
When Christians in the non-western world do development they need to do it in such a way that their own faith is not compromised. This means their engagement should build up, rather than undermine, a genuine concern for Christian ethics, discipleship and spiritual life. So AID recognizes and will try to strengthen this conviction and not impose a development agenda that is neutral about these Christian issues. For example, while enabling the Church effectively to address issues of stigma for people living with HIV/Aids, it will not ignore the Church’s own commitment to a Christian understanding of marriage and human sexuality.
Anglican Christians are about a third of the population of Southern Sudan. They have survived a determined onslaught by the overwhelmingly Muslim north to subdue them. After twenty one years of the last Sudan war an agreement was reached in 2005 giving Southern Sudan autonomy. In 2011 there is to be a referendum on the issue of independence or union between north and south. There is a desperate need for development on every front in the next few years. There is also a need for advocacy on behalf of Southern Sudan.
Bicycles and Bishop Alapayo Luctiel of Rumbek.
The Bishop writes as follows (edited and abbreviated):
“The Diocese of Rumbek in Bahr el Ghazal of South Sudan is one of the oldest and the biggest of the Dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. It lies in the Centre of South Sudan and has borne the brunt of the Civil War that went on for 21 years.
In 1997 the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) overran the last stronghold of the Sudan government in Rumbek the headquarters of the State. Hence, the Diocese is wholly in the areas controlled by SPLM/A in South Sudan. This is a blessing in one way because the Diocese has complete freedom to carry out its Evangelistic duty without let or hindrance. In another way in the area of the Diocese any infrastructure has been completely destroyed in the course of the fighting thus leaving the people in abject poverty. Trade and commerce are non-existent because the transport system is in a state of disrepair. Car travel is a privilege enjoyed by very few people because fuel is brought and bought from neighbouring countries in East Africa (Kenya and Uganda)…
The Diocese is 80 km from East to West and 320 km from South to North. It has a population of over 250,000 half of whom are Christian. The other half has not yet heard the Good News of Jesus the Saviour.
The ECS has grown and expanded many times in a decade more than any time in its history in South Sudan. The Diocese of Rumbek is in the forefront of that growth and expansion. It had about 10 congregations of a few thousand in 1983; at present it has 273 congregations with an estimated Christian population of 130,000 - 150,000. These churches are based in the rural areas since towns were deserted.
With this expansion and growth of church membership, the (178) Pastors are assigned a number of Churches. The Pastor walks on foot long distances to conduct church services. Other churches go for months without the visit of a Pastor because of the difficulty of transport.73 Pastors have already got bicycles.
Objectives and goals
To provide each Pastor with a bicycle - to enable the Pastors reach those people who have not heard the word of Christ by easing the difficulties a Pastor faces in walking long distances (i.e. 105 bicycles).
The destruction caused by the civil war has impoverished the local people and the Church in South Sudan. The Diocese cannot raise any amount of money to purchase some of its needs in a situation where internal commerce and industry have collapsed. Bicycles and other essential items are bought and brought from abroad. The local currency is valueless and unconvertible outside the country. Local products cannot be transported to neighbouring countries for sale particularly from Rumbek Diocese. It does not border any country. It is in the middle of the Sudan.”
The mini-project for bicycles for Pastors (launching the partnership with the Sudan for Christmas 2008) has a target of £15,000. This is slightly more than the costs of the bicycles as it includes £1800 as a further gift for a congregation in Wau Diocese who have built the walls of a church but now need materials to add the roof. Any money given for this mini-project over £15,000 will be used for similar needs.
Those wishing to give should make cheques payable to “The Jesmond Trust” a registered charity, but clearly indicated for AID. If possible gifts should be gift aided.