South Sudan achieves its independence on Saturday 9 July 2011, and the new president has received congratulations and an assurance of continued solidarity from Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). In a letter dated 7 July on behalf of the WCC, Tveit extended to the president of the Republic of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, “our prayers and very best wishes for the bright and peaceful future of your country and people.”
Four decades of recurring warfare and confrontation in Sudan have caused an estimated death toll of more than 2 million as well as destroying much of the region’s infrastructure and eroding resources necessary for a healthy economy.
Dr Tveit’s letter recalls that “the WCC, our ecumenical partner the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and both councils’ member churches have been accompanying the people of Sudan for much of your long struggle. Forty years ago, the WCC together with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) mediated between the two parties [in Sudan] and reached the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement.”
Later, as conflict reignited, the WCC together with partner churches and organizations remained deeply involved in efforts toward peace in Sudan. In 1994-95, the WCC, AACC and SCC were instrumental in the creation of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum through which Christians provide support to Sudanese churches in their advocacy for peace and reconciliation. These undertakings helped bring about the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ensured the creation of the Republic of South Sudan.
Dr Tveit’s letter will be read at the inaugural ceremony on Saturday in Juba, the capital of the newly instituted Republic of South Sudan, by his predecessor as WCC general secretary, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, who serves as special ecumenical envoy of the AACC to the Sudanese peace process.
In an interview on the future of the region, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, remarked that “in the new era of independence the challenges for Sudanese churches will be greater as they roll out creative initiatives for peace and reconciliation and support people in the process of dialogue addressing internal conflicts in the new republic.”
Photo : Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches. Photo courtesy of oikoumene.org