The Bishop of Maridi, Justin Badi Arama, has been elected as the new Primate and Archbishop of the Church of South Sudan in a very-tight election. In an interview with the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), Bishop Justin said that the election, on Saturday, had gone “very well” and was an example to the government and others in South Sudan on how tribal differences should play no part in political processes. Bishop Justin received 80 votes in the election. The other candidate, the Bishop of Aweil, Abraham Yel Nhial, received 79.
“The lesson I learned from the election is that tribalism is not in the Church,” Bishop Justin told ACNS. “The fear was that Dinkas could not vote for Equatorians, but in turned the other way around: most Equatorians voted for the Dinka candidate; and most Dinkas voted for the Equatoria candidate. This was a good sign of unity in the Church, and a lesson for the government of South Sudan.”
Bishop Justin said that he was surprised to have won the election, saying that the Bishop of Aweil was the favourite to succeed Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, who has retired at the age of 67 after almost 10 years leading what was at first the Episcopal Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, before becoming the Church of South Sudan and Sudan on South Sudan’s independence, before its current format as the Church of South Sudan, following the creation last year of the Church of Sudan as the 39th province of the Anglican Communion. “The election was the choice of God,” he said.
The on-going civil war was “a challenge for the church and for somebody coming into a leadership position at this time,” he said. “But we feel that maybe this is what God has called us ready for such a time; with experience and God’s guidance we will make all the effort to have a united people and change the hearts of people that they might embrace peace and work for real reconciliation and unity – not just political reconciliation.”
The Church of England’s Diocese of Salisbury has a Companion Link with the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. Today, the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, welcomed Bishop Justin’s election, saying it would open up “a new chapter” in the life of the province.
“We in the Diocese of Salisbury send him our congratulations and pray for the forty-five-year relationship between Salisbury and South Sudan, to which there is such strong commitment, and which has so much more potential,” he said. “We have been praying this week for those who gathered for the election of the new Primate and for the candidates. We now pray that God will bless Bishop Justin as he takes on this role as Archbishop and Primate of the ECSS. May he bring peace and unity and strengthen the bonds of affection with the wider Anglican Communion.”
Bishop Nicholas described the role of Archbishop of South Sudan as being “one of the leading churchpeople of the Anglican Communion”; adding that the Primate “has a vital leadership role in a country enduring civil war and hunger and where the churches are some of the strongest social institutions capable of uniting people from different political and ethnic groups.”
Bishop Justin – or Archbishop-Elect Justin to give him his new title – was ordained in 1995 and served as a cathedral dean, an archdeacon and a diocesan secretary before being consecrated in 2001 to serve as the second bishop of Maridi. He will be enthroned as the province’s fifth Archbishop and Primate on Sunday 22 April. He is 53 years old
When Justin Badi Arama was confirmed, at the age of 16, his father gave him three gifts: a Bible, a pen and a hoe, and told him that if had to use all three effectively if he wanted to be a good friend of Jesus. As a result, he has had a life-long commitment to education, the Gospel ministry and agriculture.
He met his wife, Modi Joyce, in 1983 at the parish where they were both in the youth groups. They married in 1984 and have four children: two boys and two girls.
The Archbishop-elect of South Sudan, Justin Badi Arama, with his wife Modi Joyce.
“I would ask my brothers and sisters around the Communion to pray for me: for God’s guidance for me; to pray for a ‘soft ground’ for the message of peace and reconciliation as we hope for peace in this country to end the suffering; and also the resources that enables me to preach the Gospel to the people within the province.” He explained that the mission and ministry of the Church was difficult, because so many Christians were currently displaced. The civil war has forced a large number of people – including Christians – to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
The Church in South Sudan traces its roots to 1899 and the arrival of missionaries from the Church Mission Society. The Diocese of Sudan, as it then was, was part of the Jerusalem archbishopric until 1974 when it reverted to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1976, the new independent Province was established with four dioceses. It currently has 36 dioceses in five internal provinces.
Bishop Justin is the second new primate to be elected this year. Last week, Bishop Laurent Mbanda was elected to serve as the next Archbishop of Rwanda.