THE Archbishop of Canterbury is to travel to Sudan this weekend to preside over its inauguration as an autonomous Province of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Welby will meet the new Primate of Sudan, the Most Revd Ezekiel Kumir Kondo, Bishop of Khartoum, at the service of inauguration in All Saints’ Cathedral, Khartoum, on Sunday, when Sudan will become the 39th Province of the Anglican Communion.
The purpose of the visit is to bring “encouragement and hope” to the people of the region, the Archbishop’s Adviser for Anglican Communion Affairs, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo, said.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 (News, 15 July 2011), and the title of the Primate, the Most Revd Daniel Deng, was changed to that of Sudan and South Sudan. The four-and-a-half-million members of the Episcopal Church are mainly in South Sudan.
Archbishop Kondo was enthroned as the first Archbishop of Sudan in 2014 for a new internal province, made up of five dioceses, that was intended to address the new political reality. He was appointed Primate of the new Province earlier this year after a formal application for autonomy, put forward by South Sudan, was approved by the Anglican Consultative Council (News, 17 March).
The headquarters of the Province of South Sudan are in Juba, where the Archbishop and Primate of South Sudan is based. “After the independence of South Sudan, it was problematic for him to come to Khartoum to undertake his role as Primate,” Bishop Poggo explained.
“It is easier and better for everything to be run by the new Primate of Sudan — which is one of the reasons the new Province has been set up. There will be challenges, but it will be more easily solved by the Sudanese people, rather than a Primate, who is based in Juba.”
Archbishop Welby will arrive in Khartoum, on Saturday, and travel to the diocese of Kadugli & Nuba Mountains — one of five dioceses making up the new Province of Sudan — in the south of the country. He will open a new diocesan office to replace buildings that were destroyed during civil conflict.
On Monday, Archbishop Welby will meet religious and government leaders in Sudan, the names of whom are yet to be confirmed. He will be raising the issue of freedom of religion, and addressing both Christian and Muslim groups during the trip, Bishop Poggo said. No restrictions regarding where the Archbishop would be able to visit were expected, but any security concerns raised by the Sudanese government would be upheld.
The Archbishop will then travel to northern Uganda to meet some of the 900,000 Sudanese refugees residing in the districts of Moyo and Adjumani. Most of the 1.9 million refugees who have fled from South Sudan are in Uganda, but there are also refugees in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Southern Africa, and Ethiopia.
Bishop Poggo, who was previously the Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, said that more than 90 per cent of the population of his former diocese had been forced into Uganda in the past year. “This shows you the extent of the destruction of the war and displacement of people, and the effect the conflict is having on the population in that region,” he said.
The visit would be an opportunity for the Archbishop to raise awareness in the international community of the suffering of refugees, and to promote peace and reconciliation.
The Church is key to reconciliation in the country, Bishop Poggo said, although the conflict is political, not religious.
Archbishop Welby last visited South Sudan and Uganda in January 2014, at the invitation of the Primates (News, 7 February 2014). He visited Bor, the first region to fall to rebel control when the civil conflict began the previous year. The town was completely destroyed by the fighting, and the dead had not been buried.
The Archbishop will be hosted by the Primate of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagali. He will return to the UK on Thursday. Bishop Poggo said that separate plans for the Archbishop to visit South Sudan with Pope Francis were still in place, but had been postponed (News, 3 March).