Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is joining Pope Francis and other church leaders in calling for prayers and fasting for two war-torn African nations next Friday, February 23.
“I whole-heartedly join a growing number of church leaders responding to the call of Pope Francis for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan,” the primate says in a statement released Friday, February 16.
The people of these countries, Hiltz says, “have suffered through the horrors of war for so many years. They know so much death and are acquainted with so much grief. Communities have been destroyed and family life shattered.
“So many of their children know nothing but war. So many in fact are orphaned by its carnage.”
On February 4, the pope appealed to Roman Catholics and members of other religions to pray, fast and otherwise “say ‘no’ to violence in their own way” on February 23, the Friday in the first week of Lent, because of the “tragic prolonging” of conflicts across the world. He singled out South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for special consideration.
In South Sudan, a lengthy civil war has led to widespread hunger.
According to UNICEF, every second person in the country is hungry, 72% of its children are out of school and 4.2 million children in the country of 12 million need aid.
In Congo, already the scene of decades-long strife, fighting between rival groups has intensified since President Joseph Kabila refused to resign when his term ended in December.
About 3.9 million Congolese have been displaced by violence and conflict since 2015, according to a statement released last October by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Of these, 428,000 had been displaced in the previous three months alone, it said.
Earlier this month, a number of Anglican leaders worldwide, including Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, added their voices to the pope’s, and on February 14, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Catholics to join Pope Francis in prayer and fasting for the two countries.
In his statement, Hiltz cites the scriptural texts chosen for reading at Eucharist on February 23. Ezekiel 34:21-28, the primate says, refers to God’s desire that humans turn from committing “abominable crimes against one another”; Psalm 130 tells of “trust in the Lord’s plenteous redemption, and kindness”; and Matthew 5:20-26 describes Jesus’s teaching on reconciliation and “how we go about that work, however hard it may be, however long it may take.”
Hiltz asks that Canadian Anglicans join him in fasting “as an act of solidarity with those who suffer so much deprivation through war and those whose poverty is incomprehensible.”
The primate also requests prayers for people who work for peace and reconciliation — “that their ranks be swelled and their strategies embraced.”
“May the peoples for whom they labour finally know a peace that is just and lasting, a peace in which they and their children can live in hope of better times, in full accord with the will of God,” his statement concludes.