Sudan cathedral razed in government attack

Published March 1, 2001

The Anglican cathedral in the Sudanese city of Lui was destroyed in a government aerial attack on December 29.

Lui Bishop Bullen A. Dolli said the government launched the attack which destroyed Fraser Memorial Cathedral as part of its campaign against rebels in the southern part of the country.

There was no word on deaths or injuries at the Anglican cathedral.

“Three days earlier, on Dec. 26, a government of Sudan plane had also bombed Lui, causing destruction to life and property,” said in the bishop in a statement that was disseminated by the London-based Anglican Communion News Service.

Responding to the news, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said in a statement that “the destruction of a fine permanent church, prized by the local community, is a cause for concern by all those who love the troubled land of Sudan.”

Bishop Dolli, in his statement, appealed to “the international community, especially the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Security Council to restrain the government of the Sudan from committing atrocities of genocidal proportions against the people of southern Sudan.”

Archbishop Carey noted that Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail has said the national air force will not be deterred by the Sudanese People Liberation Army (the chief rebel group) using civilians as a “human shield.”

Archbishop Carey admonished the Sudan government against “the continuing and illegal attacks on your own citizens.”

Sudan has been wracked by civil war for the past 17 years.

In Canada, church groups are planning a fact-finding trip to the Sudan in March and April. Plans are for representatives of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Christian Reformed, Presbyterian and United churches to participate.

Recently, the issue was raised again of whether the Anglican church’s pension fund should continue to hold shares in Talisman Energy Inc., a Calgary-based oil company with exploration and production operations in Sudan.

Two recent letters to the Anglican Journal, both from British Columbia, urged the pension fund to divest, saying that oil revenues fuel Sudanese government war operations.

In a letter signed by Rev. Antonio Osorio, rector of St. Saviour’s church in Victoria and also signed by the rector’s warden and the people’s warden, the pension fund’s investment in Talisman is called “unacceptable.”

It says, “we can no longer condone supporting a company that is helping to create such widespread misery among our brothers and sisters.”

Mr. Osorio, who sent the Anglican Journal several versions of his letter, each containing different corrections, eventually withdrew it and asked it not be published.

The pension fund, whose members include clergy, diocesan and national church staff across Canada, holds 57,956 shares of Talisman Energy, acquired at a cost of $2.5 million, according to Jenny Mason, director of pensions at the General Synod office in Toronto.

The current value of that holding is $3.16 million as of Feb. 6, when Talisman traded at $54.50 per share on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The pension fund’s holding represents less than one per cent of the fund’s assets, which were reported as $462 million on Nov. 30, 2000.

Talisman, which reported revenue of $2.9 billion for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2000, the latest period for which figures are available, has oil producing operations in Canada, the North Sea, Indonesia and Sudan. In that nine-month period, oil production from Sudan accounted for 18% of Talisman’s total oil production.

Talisman has said its involvement in Sudan meets ethical standards.

Jim Cullen, treasurer of General Synod, noted that the pension fund trustees have a fiduciary duty to increase investment income. Talisman is a “major Canadian oil player,” he said.

The issue is being reviewed by a recently formed group at the national church called the Socially Responsible Investment Group.

In a letter to the diocese of New Westminster dated Aug. 29, 2000, David Stovel, chair of the pension fund’s board of trustees, noted that the group has “mutual concerns” about Talisman. It added that the trustees have been working with the group to formulate “an appropriate ethical investment policy.”

New Westminster passed a resolution at its May, 2000 synod calling on the church to divest itself of Talisman holdings.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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