Thousands of Christians descended on All Saint’s Cathedral in Juba yesterday (Sunday) for the installation of Justin Badi Arama as the fifth Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. The new Archbishop used the occasion to announce a decade-long focus on the Lord’s prayer as a tool for making and teaching disciples. He wanted Anglicans in South Sudan “to do the Lord’s Prayer and to live the Lord’s Prayer in their daily lives.”
He said that his entire archiepiscopacy would be centred around the Lord’s Prayer, and he listed 10 objectives that he wanted to fulfil, including the unity of the Church. “In our country and our communities, it is clear that the devil has seized the hearts and minds of our people with a spirit of tribalism, politics, division, hate and violence,” he said, adding that he would make “every effort to teach and unite to see themselves as brothers and sisters in one family of God.”
Other objectives announced by Archbishop Justin included the construction and improvement of church buildings, mission and evangelism, and peace building and the provision of social services. “We thought having our own country would improve our situation,” he said. “But our own politicians have made everything worse for their own citizens. Life for ordinary citizens is so hard and miserable. Our people continue to suffer in the [refugee] camps, internally displaced camps and UN protection camps.
“Therefore, we are appealing to the opposition to put an end to this meaningless war and enable their citizens to experience what is God’s peace.”
The sermon during the six-hour service was given by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon. In it, he said that Christians in the South Sudan had a responsibility to “send a positive message to all the politicians: that ‘we will sink our differences on tribal grounds and work together for the unity of this country in the name of Jesus Christ.’”
A second responsibility, he said, was to focus on what unites rather than what divides. “We must focus our hearts and minds on these Christian essentials: the Bible is the Word of God – the only Word of God with authority; that Jesus is God; that Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone; and that this Jesus will come back to judge.
“Brothers and sisters: these beliefs are worth dying for; but many others are not.” He quoted an 18th Century Missionary to India, Stanley Jones, who said: “talk about what you believe, and you have disunity; talk about who you believe, and you have unity.”
He said that disagreements in the Church over issues like baptism practices – such as infant verses adult baptism, sprinkling or immersion – and the ordination of women were not issues over which Christians should break fellowship. “Our unity is not in the ordination of women,” he said. “Our unity is not in any other person, but in Jesus Christ. And in Jesus we are one. We must come together as a spiritual family and declare to South Sudan’s Christians that we are one: That Azande, and Dinka, and Arab are one: we are one in Christ Jesus.”
The service began with a moment’s silent reflection and prayer following the death of the Chief of Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, General James Ajongo, who had died in Cairo after a short illness at the age of 64. His death meant that the country’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, could not attend the service. His place was taken by Vice President Dr James Wani Igga.
The Vice President assured Archbishop Justin Badi that the government “will co-operate with you – no doubt about that.” He said that the government couldn’t bring about change without the support of the Church; and the government couldn’t bring about change without the support of the government. The two needed to work in partnership, he said. “You need me and I need you. You need President Salva; President Salva also needs you. And so on.”
The vice-president joked about the large size of the congregation, saying that during the sharing of the peace, he had gone to each row in the church; and went to carry on outside until he saw “the size of the multitude” – several thousand worshippers were sat on plastic chairs under tarpaulin shelter in the grounds of the cathedral.
The vice president also gave an update on peace-talks, which are due to resume in Addis Ababa on 2 May. He said that the government could not deliver some of the opposition demands; saying that the immediate dissolving of parliament and standing down of the President on the signing of a peace deal would not be possible. Be he offered fresh elections in six months a year, or 18-months, saying: “let the people be the ones to choose the right person and not have somebody who would impose himself.”
He said that the government was committed to finding a peace agreement, saying that “there is nothing more precious than peace. Other precious things come around as a result of peace; not the other way around. You want prosperity in South Sudan - and we must have it - we need peace.”
A number of Anglican primates were present at the service, including Archbishop Stanley Ntagali from Uganda, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba from Southern Africa, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, from Rwanda, and Archbishop Ezekiel Kumir Kondo from the Anglican Communion’s newest province, Sudan. The Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton, brought greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
During the service, tributes were paid to the recently retired Archbishop of South Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul, and his wife and family.