So I’m going to Sudan – that might be news to some readers of this blog. In another post I’m going to write about why I’m going and what I’ll be doing. But for now, I want to offer a very short summary of why I think Sudan is important and worth visiting.
You’ve probably heard of Darfur. That’s a region in western Sudan where there has been a lot of violence. I’m headed to Juba, which is way in the far south of the country and a long way from Darfur. (Sudan is a big place – the largest country in Africa and about a quarter the size of the United States.)
But the southern part of Sudan has been involved in a conflict of its own that has been much longer and more destructive than what has happened in Darfur. There have been two long civil wars between the northern and southern parts of Sudan since independence. These are the wars that produced the Lost Boys of Sudan, who have been memorialized in books such as What is the What. I’m not going to pretend to be able to identify what caused the wars but they have basically been between the Arab and Muslim north and the Christian and black African south. There’s oil that runs along the dividing line between the two parts so that probably doesn’t help the cause of peace.
The second war ended with a peace agreement in 2005 that ended armed hostilities between north and south. But the south is still a fairly unstable place, especially in recent years and there are often reports of scores of people being killed. (It’s possible that some of these deaths are from a Ugandan rebel army that has migrated north but that’s a story for a whole other time.)
A key provision of the peace agreement was that the south would be able to hold a referendum on independence. That is scheduled for January 2011. If folks in the south were able to freely express their will, it seems likely that they’ll vote for independence. But there is much that is unknown and my understanding is that no one really knows what the future holds for the south.
The Episcopal Church of Sudan is primarily concentrated in the southern part of the country and it has a significant presence. There are almost twice as many Sudanese Episcopalians as there are American ones and they are a much higher percentage of the population. ECS, along with other church groups, has been a vocal and active witness for peace and reconciliation throughout the region and I have long followed their activities from afar. I’m grateful now I’ll have a chance to see this firsthand and learn more about my brothers and sisters in Christ in this part of the Anglican Communion.
So that’s that for now. More to come.