How did St. Francis become involved with South Sudan?
In 1996, led by Assistant Rector Hentzi Elek (a former relief worker in Sudan), St. Francis collected money to buy goats for Sudanese women widowed by the civil war. The goats are a renewable source of milk, cheese, and wool for Sudanese who might otherwise have no means of support. Even today, we receive reports that those goats (and their offspring!) are helping Sudanese families thrive.
In 1997, the Rev. David Bako, a Sudanese priest from the Diocese of Ezo, came to St. Francis as part of his studies at Virginia Seminary. David's stories of his life in Sudan, his faith, and the needs of Sudanese Christians inspired St. Francis to make Sudan a vital part of our prayers and outreach ministry. St. Francis sent David back to Sudan in 1999 with the funds to start a new school. David returned to St. Francis for several months in 2001, celebrating and worshiping with us, raising additional funds, and educating Franciscans and others about the situation in Sudan. Bishop Levi Hassan of Ezo Diocese and David's wife, Lois, visited us at the end.
The War in Sudan
Since 1955, civil war and unrest have continually plagued Sudan. The conflict between the Arab, Islamic Khartoum government and the African south, where Christianity and traditional religions prevail, has destroyed villages, schools, and churches, and displaced millions of Sudanese from their homes. A 2005 peace agreement provided temporary relief, although the Khartoum government continues to persecute their citizens in various locations including Darfur and more recently Abyei and Kadugli, both of which lie on the border between north and south Sudan. On July 9, 2011 the country was partitioned into separate northern and southern sovereign states, and the new nation of South Sudan was born.
Our Covenant with the Diocese of Ezo
In February 1998, St. Francis and the Diocese of Ezo signed a formal covenant. The covenant—signed by David Bako for Ezo Diocese and by the rector, assistant rector, and senior warden for St. Francis—expresses St. Francis's thanks for the witness of Christians from Ezo and commits us to "pray, study and work to ease their suffering, to make their faithful witness widely known, and to help visit and materially assist the Church in Sudan as we are able and as its needs require."
In the covenant, we promise to:
1. Pray for peace in the Sudan, for the alleviation of suffering there, and for the Christians in Ezo Diocese
2. Study and educate our congregation about the conditions of Sudanese Christians
3. Bring the covenant before the Diocese of Virginia for prayerful consideration
4. Communicate regularly with the Reverend David Bako and others in Ezo Diocese as we come to know them
5. Send a mission trip to Ezo Diocese to learn more about conditions there, to focus on our material assistance, and to encourage them in their faith. A copy of the covenant hangs in the narthex of St. Francis.