From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Archbishop of Canterbury's Juba Cathedral Address
06 May 1996 06:12:30
ANGLICAN COMMUNION NEWS SERVICE
Canon James M. Rosenthal, Director of Communications
Anglican Communion News Service
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Archbishop of Canterbury's Address at Juba Cathedral
Sunday 8 October 1995
"The Crucified Church"
I am so glad to be here in Juba. I am sorry that, even now, it is
such a short visit. I know that you waited in vain for me to come to
see you eighteen months ago. I too was very sad that I could not
come. But to come now is very important, because your wonderful
Archbishop, Benjamina Yugusuk, has signalled that he wants to
retire. I wanted to come to his hometown and his diocese to thank
him on your behalf, and on behalf of the whole Anglican Communion,
for his ministry over so many years, and for the inspiration he has
given to his colleagues all over the world by his courage, his
dedication and his self-sacrifice.
Benjamina, yours has been a noble leadership. At times, you have
been Christlike in the service of your beloved people. You, and your
dear wife, Mama Miriama, deserve a long, happy and peaceful
retirement. We in Britain, and in other places, are doing our best
to raise some funds to support you as you prepare to rest. You have
had a very difficult year or so, both physically and spiritually; I
know you long for time for yourselves. Please know that you have my
unswerving support, and my gratitude as you plan for the future.
Archbishop, you have personified a remarkable church. In England, we
hear many stories of the faith of Sudanese Christians, and I have
had the privilege of being with some of those who are separated from
you in the far south and in camps beyond the borders of your
country. That was an experience which Eileen and I, and those who
travelled with us will never forget. And already this visit is
proving to us again the extraordinary resilience, the strength of
faith and the depths of joy of the Sudanese people. May I say, first
of all, how deeply encouraged I am that the reconciliation, which
you had such a personal part in effecting, between the two factions
of the Episcopal Church is holding. There is no place for factions
in the Body of Christ, and in your difficult position, you must hold
on to that precious unity. I do pray for you all in the tensions you
Let me share with you a benediction, which comes from Paul's letter
to the Thessalonians.
"Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to
that which is good; render to no-one evil for evil; strengthen the
faint-hearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all
people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy
I hardly need to say more, for there is the whole of Christian
mission in one prayer. It could perhaps be summarised in one
challenge - "Go out and live the Gospel". It is a challenge which I
know that Christians in Sudan take up every day, and my only desire
this morning is to encourage you in your witness.
Be of Good Courage
Firstly, then, let me tell you that I know about your suffering. I
know about the war which has divided your people for so many years.
I know about the thousands of people who have been displaced from
their homes, who have left behind them all that they own and all
whom they love. Many of them live on day by day, month by month,
year by year, not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or
alive. There are many thousands of orphans and widows. During this
short visit to Sudan, I am visiting three camps for displaced
people, one of them here in Juba. I want them to know of our support
and our prayer for them in their plight.
I hear, too, terrible stories about the persecution of certain
groups of people in different parts of your country - in the Nuba
Mountains and elsewhere, of torture, rape, destruction of property,
of slavery and death. I ask those who are able to take this message
to them: "You are not forgotten. In your suffering, may you know the
crucified Christ's presence, and may he give you the courage to hold
fast to all that is good". I challenge with those who are
responsible for such inhuman behaviour to stop. It is no part of any
creed to treat fellow human beings with such disrespect and cruelty.
Religion should never divide; true faith is always harmonious.
In such a context, I would not be surprised to hear stories of a
dying church, of people losing heart and spirit. But quite the
opposite. Christ crucified is risen and alive in Sudan, his message
is spreading, and his body is growing at a rate which is almost
beyond belief. Amidst the pain which afflicts so many of the
Sudanese people, there is a courage and a fortitude which is truly
Christlike. The mission of the Church, as outlined in that
benediction, is vibrant. So be of 'good courage' says St. Paul.
It is of great comfort to know that St. Paul was writing to people
who knew all about persecution and living in a world that was
hostile. What advice does he offer those who pass through similar
He tells us to 'Hold Fast to that which is good'
For those who are being tested, as you are being tested hold fast.
The constant diet of fear, suspicion and violence with which so many
of you live is enough to break the strongest spirit. You have had to
survive out in the bush, hunted and hated. So many of your brothers
and sisters are still out there. To remain unbroken, you must, at
least in part hold fast to all the promises of God and the presence
of the Lord in all you do. The words of Psalm 23 speaks of the
presence of the Lord when we face death and great trials. 'Though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil
- for thou are with me'.
That means we are never bereft. God remains our heavenly Father even
though we feel abandoned by everyone and even when we have lost our
natural mothers and fathers.
For Sudanese families, it is very important to have a father - as
one of your own people has written:
"because he is head of the house and without him the family is lost
and like sheep that have no shepherd".
Because of all that you have been through, many of you are without
fathers and mothers. You perhaps feel that you are sheep without a
shepherd. No; the Lord is with you. Hold fast to that.
And because God goes with us we are given our instructions. Live as
"Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted,
honour all people."
Some years ago, in quite another part of the world, the little
Central American country of El Salvador, Christians were blessed
with a quite remarkable leader, Archbishop Oscar Romero. Those
people, too, were suffering in a most awful way. Archbishop Romero's
message to them was simple. He reminded them of a wonderful truth.
He said: "You are the figure of Christ today." That must have
surprised them. he meant that every Christian in living the way that
Jesus would have lived brought Jesus close to others.
He went on to reassure them:
"We suffer with those who have suffered so much ... we suffer with
the lost - those who have had to run away and who do not know what
is happening to their families ... we are with those who are being
tortured ... I am with you."
That same Archbishop died tragically one day as he celebrated the
Holy Communion in his Cathedral. It is a reminder that suffering
with one's people is the badge of leadership. Your own archbishop
left his home when life was really tough and lived out among his
people in a trench, wandering through the bush to be with you and
Such is the calling of all Christians. We are not just individuals
in relationship with God, we are also called into community, into
the Body of Christ. We must share ourselves and our gifts with our
neighbour - and our neighbour is anyone who is in need. That
requires all the courage and all the strength we have, for sometimes
it will bring us into personal danger, it will bring us into
confrontation with those who are perpetrating wrong. We must be
prepared to speak out together against injustice, as well s bind up
the wounds which are caused by the injustice.
Your example is inspiring in this, and I pray that this ministry of
the whole church will be strengthened. We, beyond your borders, must
also commit ourselves much more firmly to support you and care for
you, and I assure you again that I will seek to do so as a result of
my visit here.
Last of all Paul says a surprising thing. 'Rejoice' he says 'In the
power of the Holy Spirit'. If there is one thing which stands out in
our experience of the Sudanese Church, it is that even though the
problems are enormous, the wounds so deep, still Sudanese Christians
love and praise their God. Perhaps it is truly because "God is your
only strength and hope, a very present help in trouble".
It is that confidence, and the joy which flows from it which you
Sudanese Christians bring to the world-wide Church. We in the
Anglican Communion are deeply thankful for your witness, your faith,
your rejoicing in the Lord. if our first impressions of Sudan maybe
of tragedy, our last impressions are of the triumph of Christ
crucified and raised from the dead.
As I draw to a close, let me quote once again from a Sudanese
Christian, now living in Britain:
"It is a tragedy which has befallen the Sudanese people. But sadness
is not the whole story. In times of trouble, we discover that there
is some spirit greater than ourselves which encourages us. We do not
forget how to sing. We must remember our hymns and how to make
music. Music is our life. Every Sudanese learns by singing, prays by
singing. We sing when we celebrate and we sing when we mourn.
Everywhere in South Sudan the people were suffering but they greeted
us with singing. They do not forget how to celebrate. The tragedy
will not be complete while the people sing. Believe me, no child
will be born unless he is surrounded by song. This is how we turn
our tragedy to a triumph."
Such is the spirit of the Sudanese people.
So, go into the world in peace, be of good courage, hold just that
which is good, render to no-one evil for evil, strengthen the faint-
hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people;
love and serve the Lord rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit,
and may God bless you and strengthen you in all you do.
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