From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Khartoum Address by Archbishop of Canterbury
06 May 1996 06:10:34
ANGLICAN COMMUNION NEWS SERVICE
Canon James M. Rosenthal, Director of Communications
Anglican Communion News Service
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Fax 44 0171 620-1071
Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury - Green Square, Khartoum
Saturday 7 October 1995
I am so glad to be with you at last in Khartoum. I know you have
been waiting for a long time for my visit. I too have been waiting
and longing to fulfil my promise to come to see you. Of course, my
visit is very short, but already I feel so welcome. And now to be
with you as we gather in Green Square and to give thanks to God, and
to worship him - it is a great and moving moment for my wife and
myself and my colleagues.
I am so pleased that other Christians are with us too, Catholics,
Copts, Orthodox, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and doubtless others as
well. To you all, I say a special thank you for joining together
with your sisters and brothers of the Episcopal Church on this great
occasion. I am so glad when I hear stories of your close co-
operation together in this country. It is such a feature of
Christian life today across the world, but it is so very important
in a land such as Sudan with the deep problems you face.
But I also want to greet those who are not Christians and who are
either Muslims or representatives of other faith traditions. I am
glad you are here and I greet you in the name of God, the creator of
To representatives of the Government of Sudan, I add my thanks for
your co-operation in the planning and execution of this visit. I
appreciate enormously the care and trouble you have taken with
respect to it.
I want to offer you some thoughts on the words of Jesus in John
'As the Father has loved me so I loved you. Remain in my love. My
command is this; love one another. Greater love has no one than this
that he lays down his life for his friends'
Those words are moving and amazing. They sketch out God's love for
each one of us, the love we should give to each other and the
character of character and service that should mark our lives.
First, God loves each one of us. Most of here are believers; whether
Christians or Muslims we believe in One God. We know he cares for
us. As I look out on you all, I see God's people, drawn together in
common purpose to praise God. I cannot tell from what part of Sudan
you come. I cannot tell from which faith or denomination you come.
I cannot tell from which tribe or family background you come. Of
course, others will tell me that some are identifiable by the
clothes they wear, or by certain physical features, but these are
superficial differences. At heart, we are one people made in the
image and likeness of God. The divisions we experience are man-made
divisions. They are not the will of God for all people are precious
in his sight.
When we attack one another, when we destroy lives - physically,
emotionally or spiritually - we are setting ourselves up in
opposition to God. How can we, people of faith, do that? How can we
be associated with it? There is an absolutely fundamental unity in
this world. We are all bound together in the bonds of God's love.
A recognition of such unity in God should lead us automatically to
an attitude of respect and tolerance towards one another
irrespective of race, colour, religion or gender. I trust I will be
understood by my Muslim brothers and sisters for speaking out for my
Christian brothers and sisters who live in this great land of Sudan.
They are not treated as equals. They often feel persecuted by the
laws of this land. The list of grievances which Christians feel is
long and heavy. Religious tolerance, which should be at the heart of
any civilised nation, is not being granted to them. The introduction
of recent laws, which makes Christian Churches voluntary societies
and subject to Government authority, whilst mosques are not, is a
worrying violation of the religious freedom which has been enjoyed
in this country for many years. Islam is not to be feared but a
process of Islamicisation imposed on a nation undermines fundamental
freedoms, which hurts people of all faiths and will be unacceptable
to them all. I hope that the authorities will pay attention to these
concerns which are expressed out of deep care for the people of
Sudan who long for peace and justice. Indeed, my concerns echo those
expressed by Pope John Paul II who from this place tow and half
years ago said: "Genuine religious belief is a source of mutual
understanding and harmony, and that only the perversion of religious
sentiment leads to discrimination and conflict."
I am sure he was right in what he said. Such compassion for one
another flows from our understanding of God. His character is love.
For Christians Jesus is the human face of God. God is love who calls
us all to love him. I appeal to all people of goodwill to recognise
that all humanity belongs together, and to work for common
understanding that we may live together in justice and peace.
But, secondly, love should be reflected in our relationships with
each other as people of faith, as it is the outflowing of God's
character. Just a moment ago I referred to Pope John Paul's words.
He was, of course, referring specifically to people who hold a
religious belief. He appealed earnestly for more dialogue and co-
operation between Christians and Muslims in Sudan. That, too, is my
concern. For too long the basis for this relationship between our
two great faiths has been misunderstanding and fear, which has led
on to suspicion and hatred. Extremists on both sides have not
helped. The history of the Church clearly shows many examples of the
oppression of Muslims. I deeply regret that because violence and
hatred against Muslims is directly contrary to the love which our
Lord commands us to give to one another.
But I must note also that there have been and continue to be
examples of the reverse in different parts of the world. There are
places in the world today where Christians fear for their lives as
a result of the activities of Islamic extremists. I do not believe
that such oppression can be justified by the doctrines of either
Christianity or Islam. People of good will in Islam and Christianity
should stand together and resist anything which restricts freedom of
expression and religious affiliation.
That which binds us together as people of faith who believe in the
one God, all compassionate, all-merciful, all-loving, is of far
greater depth than that which divides us. There is no place for fear
between us. Our faith liberates us from such fear to greet one
another not just out of respect and tolerance, but as people of God,
who, in spite of their differences, differences of belief which are
deep and honestly acknowledged, yet share a common quest. Yet we
must face the evil of religious intolerance. One of the most famous
people in my country, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Her Majesty
the Queen, has written that:
"While it has proved possible to arrive at a broad consensus about
the facts of life on earth, so far at least, it has proved
impossible to overcome the jealousies, rivalries and the destructive
consequences of competing religion and ideologies."
That is a sad commentary on the state of interfaith relations. I
urge all religious leaders in this country of Sudan to commit
themselves to open and honest dialogue so that the barriers of fear,
ignorance and prejudice may be overcome, and the hands of
friendship, tolerance and mutual respect may be strengthened.
And to those of you who may feel that they are in no position to
initiate such dialogue, I want to say you are still under an
obligation to greet your brothers and sisters of other faiths and to
continue to strengthen the great traditions of community life which
so enrich the history or this country. For in a country which has
suffered so much in recent years, it is human beings who have borne
the pain, regardless of whether Muslim or Christian or of
traditional African religions. So, stand together, strengthen one
another, and build up the common good.
But of course we are largely Christian who gather here in Green
Square. To the Christian communities in Sudan, most of whom are
represented here this afternoon, I want to say a further word. We
are called to be one as we respond to God's love. In that reading
Jesus not only told us to love one another but he gave us an example
of sacrificial love by dying for us and the whole human race.
Whatever our denomination we are first members of one family.
Regardless of our separate histories, our enmities of the past, our
difference interpretation of certain elements of our common
tradition that common love should bind us together. We must hold
together in the face of adversity. That reading tells us that
'greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for
Jesus was talking there about the power of his own death. He died
for us and that sacrificial offering of love is the heart beat of
our mission. It is the reason why Christians will die for their
faith. It is true of Sudan too. Your country is a place of deep
suffering. You, here in Sudan, have suffered much. I know that so
well, and the world knows it. I sometimes hear it said that you feel
you are a forgotten people. You are not. The eyes of your brothers
and sisters across the world are on you, and our hearts are with you
in your suffering. We pray regularly for you, and we seek to support
you materially in every way we can.
I hope you will see that my coming to you is a way of standing
alongside. There is so much that is good in the Churches of the
Sudan. But, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you have all the
riches of the Gospel. You are blessed in ways which we in the West
long to share. The wonderful growth in your churches, the richness
and joy which fills your worship, your steadfastness in the face of
persecution. In our prayers, we pray for you, but we also give
thanks for you.
And it is because of this wonderful testimony which you offer to the
world that I appeal to you, hold on to the unity which you have,
build on it, and let nothing and no-one prise you apart from one
another. In all the difficulties you face in Sudan, a united
Christian witness is of fundamental importance. It is so hard not to
plough your own furrow when there are so many challenges and
hardships facing you, but if you give in, if you go for short-term
gain, you will open doors to those elements in your society who will
only rejoice in the weakening and perhaps even the silencing of the
voice of Christ in Sudan. Earlier today I met with leading members
of the Sudan Council of Churches. So much has been achieved by your
common witness in the Council. I hope you will continue to grow
together, work together and speak together in that body.
Indeed, it is my hope and prayer that by standing together you will
truly be a prophetic Church as you speak out for the poor and
vulnerable and as you seek to resist attempts to subdue your faith.
May God bless you all in your mission, and fill you with the Spirit
of faith, hope and joy, knowing the richness of Christ's presence in
your homes, in your churches, in the Sudan Council of Churches, and
in all places where your people are suffering as he himself
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