By Philippa Hitchen
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is one of many Church leaders backing Pope Francis’ call for Friday to be observed as a day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a statement, the Anglican leader said in recent years he visited both African nations and saw firsthand “the overwhelming scale of destruction”. As well as the huge numbers of people killed, displaced and facing starvation in South Sudan, he noted that sexual violence and humiliation are being committed on the most atrocious scale in both countries.”
Bishop Anthony Poggo is former head of the diocese of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan and currently serves as adviser to the worldwide Anglican Communion. He told us why so many Anglican leaders are endorsing this day of prayer for peace.
Bishop Anthony says a number of bishops across the Anglican Communion have supported the Pope’s call because of the tragic situation in these two countries, adding that an initiative of this kind “can bring us together, to bring the needs of these two countries and many other places, to God in prayer”.
Pray for healing and for refugees
He notes that Archbishop Welby’s statement asks people to pray for the leaders of South Sudan and the DRC, “to turn their hearts from war to peace”. He also asks for prayers for refugees from these countries, noting that in South Sudan alone, over two million people have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries, while two million more are now internally displaced. Christians are also called to pray for healing, and for the work of local churches, who are doing so much to bring peace and reconciliation.
Commenting on the proposed joint visit of Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis to South Sudan, Bishop Anthony says the trip was postponed “until an appropriate time”. While both leaders are still keen for this to happen, he says “at this stage it’s hard to say when that would be”.
Local Christians working together
Speaking of the situation on the ground in South Sudan, the Anglican bishop says there are hopes for the ongoing processes to re-vitalise” the ceasefire. He insists that it’s important for people “to pray “that the two sides really take the interests of the people to heart, so that peace can be agreed upon”.
Finally, Bishop Anthony speaks about the cooperation among all Christian leaders in South Sudan, saying that in his diocese of Kajo-Keji, he worked very closely with his Catholic colleague in Yei, as well as with the Catholic priests in his area. He says the South Sudan Council of Churches brings together all the denomination because “we cannot afford not to work together in the context of South Sudan”