As CMS Ireland led people in a Day for Prayer for Sudan, the Anglican Communion also outlined its support for the African nation as its people prepare for an historic referendum on January 9.
The Day of Prayer took place at CMSI’s Belfast offices on Friday January 7 from 11.30am until 2pm. Among those who called in to pray were representatives of parishes in Connor and Down and Dromore dioceses who have visited partners in Sudan in the past, or are hoping to travel there in the future.
Former CMSI mission partners Billy and Jenny Smyth were also in attendance. For many years the couple lived in and managed the Vocational Training Centre established by the Episcopal Church of Sudan in Connor’s link diocese of Yei.
On Sunday January 9, Southern Sudan is being asked to vote on whether to remain part of Sudan, or to herald in the creation of a new country. This referendum is the concluding part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which brought an end to two decades of civil war in Sudan which has killed an estimated two million people, forced four million people to flee and de-stabilised much of east Africa.
There are still many outstanding issues to resolve as the Referendum approaches. According to David Gough, CMS Ireland Partnership Coordinator, a particular concern is the Abyei area, an oil rich region which could well be a catalyst for the return to war in Sudan.
Since mid November more than 3.2 million people have registered to take part in the referendum, including thousands of Southern Sudanese who reside in other countries around the world.
Connor Diocese has had a link with Yei Diocese since 2007. It funded the building of a school in Mongo village within the diocese, and two Connor teams travelled to Yei with CMS Ireland during 2010.
David Gough said: “In small and simple ways, the Church can help ensure that our partners in Sudan have a voice and that the international spotlight is turned on Sudan at this crucial time in their history."
CMSI’s seven partner dioceses in Southern Sudan were all aware of the Day of Prayer in Belfast, and Bishops from each diocese had sent messages and prayers which were recited by those present on the day. Many other prayers were offered, and those in attendance were asked to pen their own prayers on the future of Southern Sudan, which will be relayed to the partner dioceses by CMSI.
In a statement, the Anglican Communion says it has stepped up to support of the people of Sudan with online demonstrations of concern for the country and its pending vote include prayer walls, a Facebook campaign, videos and blogs.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams described January 9 as "an immensely important day for Sudan." He urged everyone to stand with the Sudanese people "to ensure that the referendum takes place peacefully and that the process and the results are fully respected."
Dr Julianne Stewart, Programs Director of the Anglican Board of Mission in Australia, who is scheduled to travel to Sudan later this month, said: "We are asking all Anglicans in Australia to pray for peace in Sudan. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, our hope is that the millions of people who have suffered amidst the conflict of the past few decades will come to know lasting peace."
The statement by the Anglican Communion refers to CMS Ireland’s Day of Prayer and to the Diocese of Connor website encouraging visitors to uphold the people of Sudan in their prayers.
The Rt Rev Anthony Poggo Bishop of Kajo-Keji Diocese in Southern Sudan, will be interviewed live about the Sudan Referendum on Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence Programme sometime after 9.30am on the day of the referendum, Sunday January 9 . There will be also two pre-recorded reports from Sudan, one after 8.30am and one preceding the interview with Bishop Poggo.