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Sudan Church Provides Leadership


Archbishop Paulino Lokudu Loro: Sudan Church Provides Leadership

By Steve Paterno

May 1, 2007 — The Catholic Archbishop of diocese of Juba, Paulino Lokudu Loro, has last week set the tone for political debate in South Sudan proving the vital leadership role the Church always plays in liberation struggle for the masses of South Sudan—the role that always significantly impact the population but often times not credited to the Church. Archbishop Paulino Lokudu Loro, is one of the Church leaders who has always stood on the side of the masses whether it is in time of despair or happiness. The turbulence of civil war in Sudan which killed more than two million people and created unbearable misery witnessed the courage, persistence, and leadership of Archbishop Loro as he plighted with the masses throughout the suffering.

In this period of relative peace brought about as a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Archbishop Loro once again stepped up to the occasion as he fires on the imagination of the people of South Sudan by calling and supporting on political leadership that champions the aspiration of the people of South Sudan for self-determination, which will eventually set the people of South Sudan free. The Archbishop goes on calling for unity of purpose for the people of South Sudan , something that is desperately lacking at this period in time. It is an obvious fact that the current South Sudanese political leadership completely ignores the aspiration of the people of South Sudan for independence. The leadership is hooked in the slogan of giving Unity of Sudan a chance, the unity that is responsible for marginalization of the people of South Sudan for all this time, without providing a platform for self-determination. The Separatists within the leadership are either suppressed, marginalized or don’t even exist.

As a Catholic Archbishop, Loro’s wields significant power probably more than the current South Sudanese president who seems to be out of touch with the masses and their aspirations. Archbishop Loro leadership influence surpasses the regular denominational role, which always dominates Christian Churches throughout the world. Besides attending to his flock of Catholics, Archbishop Loro has been a uniting force for the Churches in Sudan . In many occasions, he acts as co-chairman or the patron of inter-denomination Churches that work for the general good of the population, and whenever necessary, he always offers his leadership and advice to different Church denominations. Leaders of other Churches spoke favorably about him and admire his leadership role.

There is no better time to measure the vital leadership role the church plays in liberating the masses of South Sudan than when the quality of leadership among South Sudanese politicians is virtually diminished by leadership rivalries, rampant corruption, tribalism/nepotism, incompetence, and lack of vision for people of South Sudan . In the absence of quality leadership, the Church always fills in the gap.

Throughout the history of Sudan , the Church has played vital role in shaping the societies of Sudan as well as liberating the marginalized societies from the shackles of dictatorial regimes in Khartoum . Whether it is providing essential and basic services such as education, health, shelter, clothing, food or offering guidance and leadership, or even sacrificing in form of lives, the Church has always been in the forefront.

To this day, the Church remains a leading force of education for significant population of Sudan. Matter of fact, the Church established good reputation in education field by running the highly standardized institutions of learning throughout the country. Ironically, the North of Sudan, which is hostile to the Church, is the number one beneficiary of the best school systems established by the Church. The products of those best schools in the North are none other than the ruling elites in Khartoum who always turn out to be the very people who persecute the Church and the marginalized people of Sudan after acquiring solid educational foundation in schools established by Church. They act as if giving back in return means vengeance.

From earlier on, the regime in Khartoum realized the important role of the Church, especially in the area of education. In 1964, the dictator, General Ibrahim Aboud decreed a Missionary Act, which resulted in the expulsion of missionaries and halting of missionary activities in Sudan. For dictator, Aboud, the missionaries’ activities were responsible for the separatism attitude harbored by majority of Southern Sudanese. An attempt was made to nationalize the Church such as the way it is in China so as to suppress the influence of the Church, however, such an attempt failed as the Church could not compromise a bit on its ideals.

Despite efforts by the regime in Khartoum to abolish the Church and its activities, the Church remains steadfast and instrumental as shown by Cardinal Zubeir Wako ’s leadership during the liberation struggle. The terminology, “liberation theology” which is commonly associated with liberation struggle in Latin America may as well have its origin in Sudan considering historical involvement of the Church in liberation activities there. It was not by accident that the first ever liberation struggle in Sudan was led by a priest, the Reverend Fr. Saturnino Ohure. In the subsequent years that follow the Church continues to be a great contributor to the struggle of the people of Sudan such as the contributions of Bishop Paride Taban, Bishop Nataniel Garang and that of organizations like the New Sudan Council of Churches in SPLA/M liberated areas. The Church is able to create leaders whom their courage and love is match by none. Their quality of leadership is unprecedented that they are the ones who reach to the masses as oppose to the masses reaching out for them. In the words of Jesus Christ, “nobody has greater love than this: to give his life for his friends.” However, in comparisons, one commentator remarked about some of the leaders of the Church in Sudan that they “followed their Master (Jesus) even further, by giving their life for their enemies” not just for their friends.

One such example of courage and love is exemplified by Fr. Deng Barnaba. On bidding farewell to the last missionaries who were expelled as a result of the Missionary Act, in the year 1964, Fr. Deng Barnaba said, “Father, pray for us. We shall see each other only in heaven.” Knowing that life is going to be treacherous and he will not be able to meet with his fellow foreign priests anymore on this planet earth, Fr. Barnaba prophecy was proven right only a year later because he ended up being implicated by the Khartoum authorities for assisting the Anyanya movement and the order was issued to eliminate him immediately. On August 23, 1965, as he was visiting the sick in Wau town like he usually did, he met the convey of Khartoum soldiers who were looking for him all over the place as he was passing at the airport crossing just before reaching Khor Grinti. He was immediately grabbed out of his car, and before he could be savagely murdered, he asked that he prays. He put on his cassock and started praying even to his enemy who were about to murder him in a cold blood. As soon as he said, “if you wish, I am ready”, then he was shot execution style right on his head and the shots followed by three more on the chest, which dropped him backward on his back. Such is a story of individuals with rare quality who are willing to sacrifice in form of their lives.

Given the historical background of the Church in the liberation struggle and the influence the Church exerts on the general population, it is high time the politicians of the South Sudan whom their activities are characterized by rivalry, corruption, tribalism/nepotism, incompetence, and lack of vision heed to the advice and guidance of the Church. Archbishop, Loro has not only spoken but set a tone that resonate very well with the general population of the South Sudanese people—the tone that will be echoed over and over and spread like the gospel among the South Sudanese people wherever they may be.

President Salva Kiir a regular church goer and hopefully a God fearing individual would have been the greatest beneficiary of the guidance and advice of the church such as the one provided by Archbishop Loro. One will presume, President Kiir attends the church on average once a week, but one wonders on how many times he addresses the masses of the South Sudan in a year, and on how many occasions President Kiir delivers on the aspiration of the people of the South Sudan for self-determination. Such questions are left for President Salva Kiir and his fellow politicians to grapple with. Whatever it may be, the Church seems to always be ready to provide leadership, especially when the politicians failed to provide any leadership.

The Church had long time came to the conclusion that the interest of the Church in South Sudan can only be safeguarded in a free society. When asked on the Church involvement in struggle of justice and freedom for the people of South Sudan , the Rev. Fr. Saturnino Ohure responded, “what is the use of baptizing babies, if in the future, it will become impossible to instruct them? Or if to get a job or employment they must become Moslems?” It is only in a free independent South Sudan that the Church beliefs that its interest can be secured, therefore, the statement of Archbishop Paulino Lokudu Loro in regards to the independence of South Sudan ought to be taken seriously by the Southern Sudanese political leadership. Otherwise, blessed are those who share, champion, and promote the aspirations of the people of South Sudan .

* Steve Paterno is a Sudanese residing in the U.S.A., and he can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com

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