The primates at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a major library and cultural center that dates back to the third century BC.
Calling on the Anglican Communion “not to abandon the people of Sudan in this time of danger and uncertainty,” Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul appealed to his fellow primates February 4 saying that the Church in Sudan needs “urgent support for the work of relief, rehabilitation and resettlement.”
Also on the penultimate day of their February 1-5 meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, the primates heard a proposal for a more co-ordinated approach to relief and development work in the Anglican Communion and spent the afternoon visiting Alexandria’s ancient library.
Inter-tribal fighting, the ongoing conflict in Darfur and renewed rebel atrocities by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are some of the concerns Archbishop Deng highlighted in his address. He spoke about LRA rebels “mounting attacks on many unarmed villages … often with severe brutality including the severing of limbs with machetes and whole villages burnt down.”
Several parishes and villages in southern Sudan have fallen victim to the fresh wave of attacks by the LRA, a Ugandan rebel organization whose soldiers are prolonging a two-decades-long terrorist campaign gruesomely marked by widespread massacres and child abductions.
Following Archbishop Deng’s address, the primates are said to be working on a response to the situation in Sudan. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in a statement Jan. 29 expressed “great sorrow” at the widespread violence inflicted on Sudanese communities by the LRA and called on U.S.-based Episcopalians to take action through advocacy and prayer.
In his address, Archbishop Deng offered an update about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in January 2005 and ended 21 years of civil war in Sudan. “Substantial parts of this agreement have now been implemented,” Archbishop Deng told the primates. “However, as recent events in Sudan and several recent independent studies have shown, the agreement has been neither ‘comprehensive’ nor fully guaranteed ‘peace’ to date, and there are important and difficult elements which have not yet been implemented which pose a yet more serious threat to an ongoing, stable peace.”
Archbishop Deng mentioned one study in particular – “Against the Gathering Storm” released on Jan. 9 by Chatham House, London – which, he said, “cites ongoing land, boundary demarcation and oil wealth disputes as key elements that are still preventing ‘comprehensive peace’ and for which the CPA does not have a solution in its present mode of implementation.”
The 2005 peace agreement was negotiated between northern and southern government officials with the involvement of international leaders, including the Rev. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest and former U.S. Senator who was named by former President George W. Bush as envoy to Sudan.
Despite initial hopes for the success of the peace agreement, southern Sudanese leaders have been frustrated by the northern government’s refusal to live into the major terms of the agreement, including sharing of oil revenues and the drawing of fair borders.
The peace agreement set the date of 2011 for a special election in which southerners can determine whether to secede from the north or remain a unified country.
Archbishop Deng also told the primates that suffering continues in the Darfur region of Sudan, where government-backed Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, continues to attack civilians and raid refugee camps. “No progress has been made towards peace and … there is a lack of willingness to negotiate,” said Archbishop Deng, noting that the CPA is essential to achieving peace in Darfur.
Addressing the media Feb. 4, Deng explained that there are four million Anglicans in Sudan and that the church is actively involved in education, healthcare, and relief and development work. “We are involved in the life of the common people – we are making peace and justice and reconciliation,” he said.
During the afternoon, the primates visited the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a major library and cultural center that dates back to the third century BC. The ancient library was destroyed 1600 years ago but international support and funding brought it back to life in 2002.
Today, the library is a public learning center and a leading institution of the digital age that uses state-of-the-art technology to promote education with an emphasis on culture, arts and sciences. The complex houses several museums of antiquities, manuscripts and science, a planetarium, two permanent exhibitions, a conference center for 3,000 people and seven research institutions.
Bishop Jefferts Schori described the library as “a remarkable gift” to the world. “Education is the foundation of human development,” she said.
In business sessions earlier in the day, the primates heard a report about plans to form an Anglican alliance for relief and development.
In mid-January a group of relief and development practitioners met at Lambeth Palace to discuss ways the Anglican Communion may embark on “a collaborative approach to existing Anglican relief, development and advocacy activities,” a report from that meeting said. A “foundational document” is expected to be presented to the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main legislative body, when it meets in May.
On the evening of Feb. 3, the primates heard a presentation about global warming, in which the Most Rev. David Moxon, co-Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, suggested lifestyle changes to address climate change, such as reducing travel and promoting eco-friendly congregations. “The church has biblical, practical and moral obligation to cut down carbon emissions,” he told the media Feb. 4.
On Feb. 5, the final day of the meeting, the primates will address Christian responses to the financial situation and hear an introduction to the agenda of Anglican Consultative Council.
The primates are expected to release a communique, which will be presented to the media by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams during a press conference at the conclusion of the meeting.
Matthew Davies is editor of Episcopal Life Online and international correspondent of Episcopal News Service.