Southern Sudan: Archbishop’s visit supports 101 days of prayer campaign for a peaceful referendum
Article & photo by Sophie Vodvarka while working as an intern with JRS Eastern Africa
Yei, 14 December 2010 — German Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender paid a visit to Yei, Southern Sudan to show solidarity with the autonomous region in promoting the 101 days of prayer campaign for a peaceful referendum, which will take place on January 9, 2011.
Archbishop Ender’s visit on December 8 was symbolic to the people of Sudan, who repeatedly spoke of his coming as a sign that they have the support of the church in their struggle for independence.
After an over 20-year civil war between the north and the south was ended in 2005, the referendum will now give Southerners the possibility to vote on whether they want to secede from the north or not.
To reinforce the importance of peace among the people and to deepen each person’s commitment to becoming an advocate for peace, the 101 days of prayer campaign was launched on September 21, the International Day of Peace and will end on January 1st, World Day of Peace.
Solidarity through spirituality
“The purpose of 101 days of prayer is to help people be prayerfully ready for the referendum. They don’t want any more war,” said Kevin White SJ, coordinator of the JRS pastoral programme in Yei.
“JRS is happy to participate in this prayerful initiative for peace. Working closely with returnees, refugees and displaced people, we want to do everything we can to ensure that there be no more war, which not only includes educating people about their civic rights and responsibilities but also asking the Lord to help us in this historical moment,” said Fr. White SJ.
Every month during the 101 days of prayer campaign there has been an inter-religious prayer session and a peaceful event. In addition, people have been encouraged to say the prayer for peace in Sudan daily (see below).
The Sudanese Catholic bishops, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Solidarity with Southern Sudan (SSS) had all teamed up to launch the campaign.
Church supports freedom of choice
During his visit Archbishop Ender visited neighbouring churches, the JRS compound in Yei, and celebrated mass at Christ the King Cathedral. It was not his first visit to Sudan, as he lived in Khartoum as the apostolic pro-nuncio representing the Vatican from 1990-1997.
The Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei welcomed Archbishop Ender’s visit and stated several times that it was the Sudanese people’s right to vote for secession, but not their duty.
Referenda centres are now sprouting around the countryside and planes arrive daily in Juba from Khartoum, repatriating Southern Sudanese who were living in the north.
“Maybe this will be the last occasion to visit a united Sudan,” Archbishop Ender said. “Since I lived here something has improved, but the position of the people has not. The north didn’t do anything for the south,” Archbishop Ender said.
This article is from Jesuit Refugee Services Eastern Africa communications, and can be found originally printed on their website here.