WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia
One of the lessons that a delegation of church leaders has learned from a recent visit to Sudan is that after 21 years of civil war, there is “no quick fix” available for Africa’s biggest country, said Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
Mr. Kobia explained that after the signing of a 1972 peace agreement in Addis Ababa, “We were criticized for abandoning churches in Sudan.” Speaking at the close of a three-day conference in Juba that brought together Sudan’s church leaders and the WCC delegation, Mr. Kobia added, “We have learned from our mistakes, and that is why we want to do it differently.”
Sudan is a place where Islam meets Christianity, as well as where the Arab meets black Africans, Mr. Kobia said.
The majority of the estimated 39 million people of Sudan are Muslim, with Christians amounting to about 17 per cent, and with another 10 per cent followers of African traditional religions. While the northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim, the southern part is mainly Christian.
The devastating 21-year civil war between the north and south of Sudan left two million Sudanese dead, and another four million people displaced, mostly in southern Sudan.
Mr. Kobia said that after the signing in January 2005 of a new accord, called the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the WCC in consultation with local churches began preparing for its March 26 to April 3 visit this year.
The WCC leader, a Methodist from Kenya, said the lack of speedy solutions for Sudan called for resilience by the church to withstand problems.
“We realized rebel movements are ambiguous. The church helped save the rebel movement in Sudan several times. There are important lessons we should be learning from this since peace has been achieved,” he explained. He also said that the church had gained tremendous capital during the war.
“Churches were paving roads. They provided education and health. They endeared themselves to the people and gained knowledge of their aspirations,” Mr. Kobia told the Juba gathering that some government officials also attended. “We learned the Gospel is the greatest source of strength during difficult times.”