Archbishop of Sudan evacuates Cathedral amid fighting

Five days of fierce fighting in Sudan have forced thousands of civilians to flee, including Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, the Primate of the Episcopal Church, who evacuated 42 children sheltering in the Cathedral to walk to safety. 

 Ian Woodward, Chair of the Salisbury-Sudans Partnership explains what is happening in our link diocese: 

“Until very recently there was considerable optimism that the two armed forces in Sudan were about to agree to form a unified national army in the coming weeks which would lead to elections and a civilian government and hopefully an abiding peace after more than 30 years of conflict. “However very serious fighting broke out in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan early on Saturday morning 15th between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) under General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Force (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo also known as Hemedti. Only 18 months ago they jointly orchestrated a coup, cancelling a fragile transition to civilian rule that had been started after the 2019 coup which removed the nearly 30 year rule of Omar al-Bashir who has been prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The RSF springs from the dreaded Janjaweed forces who are incriminated with Bashir in the ‘Darfur genocide’. 

“Both forces have substantial artillery and the SAR also has a number of former Soviet era attack aircraft. Extensive damage has been to the airport in Khartoum which remains closed. Reports to date say that more than 200 people have been killed and more than a thousand injured. 

“We managed to speak to Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo the Primate of the Episcopal Church in his Cathedral compound last Saturday morning where his family and clergy and their families were in lockdown but felt secure though much fighting was localized around their compound.  “We lost contact on Sunday until Tuesday of this week but received a harrowing message from His Grace via our colleagues in Leeds-Bradford that said ‘Due to the seriousness of the situation, we have evacuated the Cathedral with all the children 42 persons in number! RSF have destroyed cars, cafeteria, store and were breaking one of the offices. I believe they will break (into) family houses within the compound. Continue to pray for safety of the Church.’ We managed to re-establish a phone link on Wednesday and Archbishop Ezekiel said they escaped from the compound and walked for more than an hour and a half until they reached relative safely.  “We can only imagine the terror of such a walk with the constant noise of gunfire and air attacks, picking their way through smoke and rubble. He says they have water but very little food and the only power (probably solar) is in short supply but was just enough to recharge his phone. The UN’s World Food Programme has suspended food distribution following the death of three of their workers. “ The RSF say they will abide by a new 24hour ceasefire from 1800 on Wednesday. The next few days are crucial to the survival of so many Sudanese people and we need to be considerate knowing that many of them will have been fasting in daylight hours in their observance of Ramadan which is about to end. “We are in touch with our Sudans Unit colleagues in the Foreign Office as, with the United States and Norway, we remain guarantors of peace in the Sudans. 

“The Sudans Parliamentary group is meeting next week when we will be considering this latest crisis. Prayers were said in many of our churches on Sunday including the Cathedral. An abiding ceasefire is essential, then a political resolution and harmony in the wider region and we will bend our minds to how we can help heal the wounds.” 

Please keep Sudan and indeed South Sudan in your prayers. A prayer written for Sudan is below:

A Prayer for Sudan  (April 2023)

God our Father, whose son Jesus Christ wept over your people, because they knew not the way of peace and were as sheep without a shepherd; hear our prayer for the all the people of Sudan. Turn the hearts of their leaders to reconciliation and peace. Bless Archbishop Ezekiel, his bishops and clergy that they may have the strength and support to be true shepherds of your people in the midst of war. Strengthen those who seek to bring peace, who heal the sick and feed the starving and hasten the time when all nations will own your just and gentle rule and receive your gift of peace.  Amen

Picture: Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, delivers a statement of support during the Lambeth Conference on Aug. 6, 2022. By Neil Turner/The Lambeth Conference

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