U.S. Episcopalians Hold Symposium for Sudan Peace

((Photo: Matthew Davies/Episcopal News Service))From left, Alexander Baumgarten, interim director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations; Richard Parkins, AFRECS executive director; and the Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda, Africa partnerships officer; engage on advocacy issues with U.S. Consul General to Sudan Christopher Datta during a meeting in Juba in April 2008.

A symposium on securing peace in the country of Sudan was held recently by the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (AFRECS) as the most recent part of the U.S. Episcopalian church's efforts to address violence in the African country.

Held on September 10 in Washington, D.C., the symposium brought together AFRECS board members, advocacy experts and church leaders for a time of discussion and advocacy. Issues addressed included ensuring fairness in Sudan's 2010 national elections, rebuilding infrastructure and providing services to the Sudanese people, supporting the U.N. in its peacekeeping efforts, and strengthening implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a pact signed in 2005 between parties in the northern and southern parts of Sudan, which until then had been engaged in civil war.

Members of the symposium also took opportunity to meet with select government officials about the issues in Sudan, with many of the officials responding favorably to AFRECS's requests.

Russell Randle, AFRECS board member and a General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Virginia told the Episcopal News Service, "We have an obligation to speak out forcefully, to urge our government to take tangible steps to help preserve the peace. Like good queen Esther, we must not keep silence at such a time as this, for we may be placed here in order to speak up for our brothers and sisters in Sudan."

Speaking on behalf of those participating in the symposium, AFRECS executive director Richard Parkins said that he, ""felt encouraged that their message was heard but that sustained follow up was needed. One advocate noted that a single or occasional visit to a congressperson would not mean much unless reinforced with frequent messages from constituents about what needed to happen to make peace in Sudan a reality."

In July 2009, the U.S. Episcopalian church passed two resolutions regarding violence in Sudan its 76th General Convention. Other efforts by the church on the issue have included the drafting of an advocacy letter from 92 of the church's bishops to President Barack Obama, and a joint letter by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Sudan Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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