GIVEN the grim news from the UN about the world's newest
country, it might be expected that those playing host to two
bishops from South Sudan at Canterbury Cathedral last week would
have had to offer them consolation. In fact, both bishops were
optimistic about the future.
"We are confident that a solution will come," the Assistant
Bishop of Juba, the Rt Revd Fraser Yugu Elias Lado, said. "These
people are brothers; it is just like a quarrel."
He was referring to the parties engaged in continuing skirmishes
after the alleged coup attempt in December (News, 20 December).
Although a ceasefire was signed last month, both sides have accused
the other of breaching it. Hundreds of thousands of people have
been displaced by the conflict, and the UN warned last week that
nearly two-thirds of the population was at risk of food
Bishop Lado said that Juba was enjoying relative peace, and
hoped that peace talks, which are to take place in Addis Ababa this
week, would produce a solution. The Church, he said, had a crucial
part to play in reconciliation, which was necessary, given the
bloody civil war that led to the country's birth.
"There are so many things that came out of the war. People were
traumatised by it. . . That is why reconciliation is very, very
im-portant, and the healing of the nation."
He pointed to the appointment of the Archbishop of Sudan &
South Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng, as chair of the country's Committee
for National Healing, Peace, and Reconciliation, as evidence of the
fact that "the government trusted the Church, and because it is a
Church, people listen to it." The work would cascade downthrough
the dioceses to grassroots level, he said. Last month, the rebel
leader David Yau Yau, a former theology student, signed a ceasefire
agreement with the government, after negotiations led by church
leaders. Bishop Lado pointed to the good relationships with the
minority Muslim population: "They are our brothers. They are
Southerners. In my family we have Muslims, and we live together.
When it comes to Christmas, we celebrate, and when it comes to
Ramadan, we celebrate." He denied that the current conflict was an
The Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt Revd Elijah Awet, was more
circumspect about progress in Addis Ababa. "What is happening there
[in areas of conflict] is not an organised thing," he said. "There
are those forces recognised by the rebel leader, and others just
jumping in to benefit from the situation, by robbing, and raiding
cows. These people will not be controlled bythe ceasefire - this is
He questioned whether agreements were being made "for the
welfare of the international community, not for the welfare of the
local community on the ground", and spoke of people "addicted to
rebellion. . . It is not ethnic fighting, it is a coup. But because
we do not know how to manage when it fails, it has changed to
become ethnic fighting."
His diocese of Cueibet borders Unity State, a rebel stronghold;
and some who have since defected back to the government had been
displaced, he said. "The Church is talking with the community to
welcome them, and not treat them as the enemy but a brother."
Like Bishop Lado, he emphasised South Sudan's potential,
including its water, and its fertile land: "There is no place where
you cannot do something. . . These crops will support the nation,
and could be exported to another country that has no land for
In future, South Sudan could host migrants from other countries,
he said. "We are peaceful. The problem is just in a few areas. . .
We hope that soon there will be no problems. The peace will resume