Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sudanese Bishop Calls for Independent State

From The Living Church-

Establishing an independent state in the southern portion of Sudan would help relieve persecution of Christians, said Bishop John Zawo of the Diocese of Ezo during a visit to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Providence, R.I., on Nov. 17.

“We should not continue to be second-class citizens in our own country,” the 40-year-old bishop told his audience, which included students from Brown University, the Episcopal Campus Ministry group, Sudan scholars from the Naval War College outside Newport, and St. Stephen’s parishioners.

Ezo is an area of continuing political conflict, on the border of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has endured conflict since 1983, with almost 2 million people killed and over 4 million displaced from their homes. For the past 26 years, children there have had no basic health care or educational opportunities. Many Christian leaders have been killed during this time, and the Muslim government in Khartoum does nothing to stop the deprivation and bloodshed despite the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord.

In addition, for the past several years, Ugandan guerillas from the Lord’s Resistance Army have inflicted steady violence on the people of Ezo, forcing children into becoming soldiers and young girls into sex trafficking.

Bishop Zawo said he encourages his people to “focus their attention on God in the midst of misery and chaos.”

Tom Bair, husband of the Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island, introduced Bishop Zawo. The Diocese of Rhode Island has a companion relationship with the Diocese of Ezo, which Mr. Bair said is approximately the same size.

In December 2008, Mr. Bair and Bishop Wolf traveled to southern Sudan to spend Christmas with Bishop Zawo and the people of Ezo. They witnessed firsthand the poverty and hardship of the area, but also the deep faith of the Anglican population, many of whom have lost all their possessions and must take shelter in straw huts covered with tarpaulins.

Bishop Zawo asked his audience to call for the United States government to help stop the killing in Sudan. He showed pictures of the conditions under which his people are forced to live.

In response to questions, Bishop Zawo said he believed the local population suffered less from religious persecution by the Muslim majority than from the racism of the government in Khartoum, which often pays equatorial Africans to convert to Islam, yet continues to treat them as inferior to the Arab population of the northern part of the country.

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