By Ngor Arol Garang
January 5, 2011 (ABYEI) - The Episcopal church of Sudan on Wednesday pledged to work with the regional government of south Sudan in building peace and promotion of sustainable development regardless of the result of the region’s independence referendum on Sunday.
The Bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese of Aweil said in a statement to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday from Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, said churches should play an important role in helping the government alleviate poverty, especially in rural areas.
“As a church, we are supposed to exchange healthy words with the government and we should treat each other as complementing partners to promote development in the country,” said Abraham Nhial Yel, bishop of Aweil diocese.
Bishop Yel, who spoke to Sudan Tribune after concluding a three day voter education training organized by his church for pastors drawn from over 45 parishes in the state with 14 archdeaconries, said he expects the pastors to extend the knowledge they gained during training to their congregations. He said they were all learners during the training.
"If there was something unique we have learned from this training, it was our coming together to share our experiences as one and the same people of God," said Yel.
He said his interest is to ensure that voters get the actual message without misinterpretation.
"As church, our greater interest and concern to organize this training is to ensure voters get the actual message about voting procedures without misinterpretations.
"We have seen and heard that some people have started giving wrong information about voting procedures. This is what wanted to avoid," explained Bishop Yel.
He said the government is the custodian of the people, hence the need for the church to respect its views and play an advisory role.
The Episcopal bishop also appealed to southern Sudan’s president to create a desk to deal with religious matters in order to promote a strong relationship between the government and the church.
He said the desk would help churches to express their views to the government in a befitting manner, instead of using the media. His church plans to hold a meeting with different political players to advise them on how to conduct their campaigns ahead of Sunday’s vote in the area.
Yel said it is important for peace to prevail during the voting days so that voters can cast their votes without fear.
“The prime reason why we are interested in organizing [a] meeting with political players in the area is to gather their views and commitment to conduct their political activities during the voting period with peace and harmony,” he said.
He urged critics and political leaders to ensure that peace prevails during the voting period.
“We do not want to see campaigns of insults and personal attacks in the media. We want to see tangible issues being discussed. We shall soon hold a meeting with political players to advise them on how to go about voting campaigns,” he said.
Bishop Yel said during voting period from January 9-15, citizens should maintain peace in the country is enjoying because Aweil and Northern Bahr el Ghazal is one of the most peaceful states in South Sudan.
Some areas of the south have been plagued by cattle raiding, especially Lakes, Jonglei and Warrap States. Jonglei and Unity have been destablized since last years elections in April, after which some independent candidates took up arms against the southern government after failing to win the positions they wanted.
In Western Equatoria, the Ugandan rebel movement the Lord’s Resistance Army, continue to carry out attacks against civilians despite now being based in the Central African Republic.
The southern government have attempted to unite the south politically and militarily ahead of the vote with some success, with some rebels and politicans joining or reconciling themsleves with the SPLM, the south’s ruling party.