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The Family of God the Father on a Journey Towards Justice, Peace and Reconciliation

The Family of God the Father on a Journey Towards Justice, Peace and Reconciliation
Development of Vision, Mission and Values of the Sudanese Catholic Bishops’ Conference
14 September 1998

 

The Sudan has been torn apart by civil war for more than thirty years and caused untold suffering to millions of her people. The conflict makes it impossible for the Episcopal conference to meet in their own country. In September this year, the Sudanese Bishops met in Nairobi to reflect how the Church could contribute to peace and reconciliation. They elaborated a mission statement they had formulated the previous year during their ad limina visit to Rome into a whole pastoral programme to be reflected and discussed in all the Christian communities. (AMECEA Documentation Services, December 1, 1998)

Preamble

We, the Bishops of Sudan, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for our Plenary Assembly send our greetings of peace and love in the name of Christ, our peace. In preparation for the Jubilee 2000 and for the Centenary of Evangelization in Sudan, we are launching the following pastoral programme for all Christians in the Sudan. It is a programme that is intended to deepen the understanding and the implementation of the “Vision, Mission and Values” published by the Bishops of Sudan in September of 1997 in Rome. (ADS No: 487)

The Current Situation in the Sudan

We, the Catholic Bishops of the Sudan, being critically aware of the devastating civil war in our country, and mindful of our responsibilities as Bishops, have discussed among other things the question of war and peace in the Sudan. We also reflected on the situation of human rights in general as well as on famine currently affecting various parts of the country, especially the hardest hit areas such as Bahr El Ghazal.
We noted with the greatest concern the devastating consequences of the on-going civil war on civilian population and property as represented by the continuing loss of innocent lives (this amounts to ethnic cleansing) and destruction of property; rampant sense of frustration and hopelessness; broken families; spread of crime and immorality including rape; dislocation and displacement of whole populations resulting in unprecedented suffering, impoverishment and dehumanization. The influx of refugees to the neighbouring countries no doubt relates to the agonizing effects of this war.
We also noted with regret certain practices which undermine the dignity and worth of the human person. In particular, we deplore extrajudicial punishment, disappearances, slavery and slavery-related practices, tortures, restrictions on freedom of worship, lack of freedom of expression, discriminative laws, practices and attitudes, manipulation of the media, lack of genuine dialogue between Christians and Moslems. We disapprove of the use of food for faith or as a weapon. Furthermore, we express our concern for civilian population in crossfire especially in situation involving aerial bombardment. And finally, we deplore the slow, almost cynical response to the famine situation and the denial of food aid to some areas including the Nuba Mountains. By way of warning, we express our fears that another more devastating famine is looming and may most likely hit again in 1999 because of this year’s insufficient rains and draught and other reasons. The situation will demand timely concerted effort both at the national and international level.
We cite the situation of war to express our total rejection of it. This conflict infact should challenge and disturb the conscience of any believer in God or any person of goodwill. This situation is unacceptable and we call upon the principle parties to the conflict to seriously work for a negotiated settlement and to stop the perpetration of the heinous crimes.
As we reflected on the war situation, we could see that there are signs of hope and some light at the end of the tunnel. The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) involvement in the peace process although slow is commendable and encouraging. We also praise and encourage the role of friends of IGAD in the peace process. In addition, we commend the parties of the conflict for courageously coming to the negotiating table last August. This effort and spirit should continue. Equally, praiseworthy is the acceptance of a limited cease-fire by both parties
As far as the people are concerned, there are also signs of hope. The people are becoming increasingly aware of their destiny and are closing their ranks in unity and supportive of one another. They are more conscious than ever of their dignity and rights and of their duties and obligations towards the community and the Church. Many young people and intellectuals are more prepared now than ever, to involve in community and Church affairs. They are involved in educational, cultural and religious programmes. For example, Bible is presently being translated into many indigenous languages. The youth and women, in collaboration with the Church are working whole-heartedly for better understanding of the scriptures and for the spread of literacy. The Gospel has now reached areas previously untouched and the spirit of the people, both young and old, to learn the good news is at once genuine and determined. We thank the selfless efforts and commitment of the youth, women and pastoral workers.
Signs of hope are spreading in other communities. We note with appreciation that people outside the Christian community are fostering our same values and are sharing with the larger community in its efforts and concern. We encourage this to continue for the good of our nation, the Sudan.

A. Expression of Concern for Justice and Peace and Restoration of Hope

We need to revisit the Vision, Mission and Values proposed in September, 1997 by SCBC plenary assembly in Rome and make it practical in our daily Christian life.
We recall the words of the opening lines of the “Vision, Mission and Values”.
“The Catholic Bishops of the Sudan during their annual plenary assembly in Rome (September 1997) looked at the terrible situation of non-peace in the Sudan. It was frightful and detestable. So we asked ourselves: “What kind of peace does the Sudan need today? Not just any peace, but the kind of peace for which people are prepared to struggle to expand their energies and even to die”. This is how our “VISION OF THE SUDAN” was born. From now on, we will not be just working for the Sudan but for the kind of Sudan we saw in our “vision” – our vision of a better and happier Sudan (Vision, Mission and Values).
What Kind of Peace and Justice do We, as the Church, the Family of God Want to Promote in Civil Society?

Peace is a Gift of God and an Involving Process

1. Peace is of Divine Origin
Peace is God’s gift to humanity. God created us in his own image and, through Christ, redeemed us and made us His adopted children. By reason of His adoption as God’s children we are destined to enjoy, among others, the gifts of freedom and justice. The kind of peace we are seeking follows from the faith acceptance that we are all God’s children with the right to exist and to share in all of God’s creation.
2. Peace Deals with the Dignity God Has Given to Us
When God created us in his image and likeness He planted in each one of us the seed of dignity and self-worth. God expects that we should respect human dignity. Our human rights are derived from this dignity. In fact throughout the bible we see God punishing any violation or denial of human dignity and rights from Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) to the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk.16:13-19). Cain was punished for shedding innocent human blood and the rich man was punished into hell for not acknowledging and honouring the dignity of poor Lazarus. We are striving for the kind of Peace and Justice that upholds and promotes human dignity.
3. Peace is Involvement in a Dynamic and Never Ending Process
The “Vision and Mission” for peace calls us to become participants in the vocation and mission of Christ. This means first of all that we must acknowledge that all men and women are made in the image and sacredness of God. Secondly we must respect the dignity of every individual and express it by living in rightful and harmonious relationships with everyone. Thirdly, as sharers in Christ’s mission we take example from his sacrificial death and total offering of self in order to justify us and bring us peace. In the never ending process of peace we are called to give ourselves selflessly to the point of total sacrifice for the common good as Christ did in order to free the world from injustice and captivity. We ourselves have to be co-responsible in building the kingdom of God through justice, reconciliation and peace.
4. Peace is Everyone’s Responsibility
The kind of peace we are seeking is a gift of God that on account of our sinfulness has to be regained time and again. On our part it requires the upholding of God’s values and His order within the human community through responsible, social action and political leadership. But it also demands the co-operation of each one of us with a totally unselfish and honest involvement in the process of peace.
“In our present situation, such a vision of the Sudan seems a dream precisely because there are so many forces working in the opposite direction. Our “MISSION STATEMENT” spells out our programme of work to weaken the forces of evil and strengthen those of good. It is our commitment. It is the very mission Jesus Christ took upon himself and handed on to his disciples for all times.
Such a Mission Statement is demanding. So, we set before ourselves certain “VALUES” to sustain us in our effort. These values are based on Christian faith, hope and love. They must become integral to our Christian Vocation and Ministry as Bishops. They are values that should help and urge us reach out imploringly to God with whom nothing is impossible. They have to be cultivated with patience and perseverance until they become nature to us.
We now share our “Vision, Mission and Values” with you. Our hope is that they become the “Vision, Mission and Values of the Church in the Sudan” as it struggles together with all Sudanese of good will to restore peace to our country.
We ask you to pray for us, your Bishops, that we may continue to be light and salt in our country. We ask you to gradually make our “Vision, Mission and Values” your very own. Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, of Blessed J. Bakhita and Blessed D. Comboni, we shall and will obtain from God all the graces we need to bring peace to our country.
Brothers and Sisters, we have a very noble programme to work, suffer and even die for. It is the programme of Jesus Christ who died on the cross in order to bring us peace. He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. He will guide us into the way of peace. To him be glory and praise for ever and ever”. (Vision, Mission and Values).

B. Pastoral Program

As Bishops, we present to all Christians a pastoral programme intended to bring our lives to the service of Justice, Peace and the restoration of Hope among our people. We prepared and shared this pastoral programme with representatives of the priests, religious and laity. We now call upon priests, religious and laity to give the necessary enlightenment and implementation to this pastoral programme in all our Christian Communities. We hope that our programme will be useful to all people of good will.

Programme for the Coming Year 1998-99
The Liturgical Year of God Our Father

The Theme: The Family of God on Journey with Christ, Towards His Kingdom of Justice and Peace
To foster our “Vision, Mission and Values” in our work for Justice and Peace, we propose that all Christians communities join us in a programme of Christian renewal and spiritual formation during the upcoming Liturgical seasons of Advent, Lent, Easter and the Ordinary times of the liturgical year
Each of the Liturgical times will focus on some of the specific Values and actions from our Mission statement that are based on these Values. Our aim through fostering such Values and Actions is to help make our Vision for a better Sudan more of a reality.
Advent Theme: The Family of God, Guided by the Spirit, prepares for the coming of Christ
In Advent, we put priority on fostering:
  • THE VALUES: Faith and Trust in God who is always present to us and never denies us the grace we need in our lives and our work;
  • Hope in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection, the guarantee that we too will triumph over death and evil;
  • Openness and Docility to the Holy Spirit who inspires and strengthens us.
Mission Statement Actions:
  1. To proclaim the good news of Salvation with renewed vigour and zeal;
  2. To intensify our efforts for the ongoing Christian and Spiritual formation of our people.
Lenten Theme: The Family of God, with Christ, Challenging the Culture of injustice
In LENT, we put priority on fostering:
  • THE VALUES: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in situations of tension and conflict, solidarity with the suffering and the needy;
  • Compassion toward the suffering and the poor, just as Jesus taught us.
Mission Statement Actions:
  1. To defend and promote human dignity;
  2. To stand always for justice and truth;
  3. To educate and urge our faithful to the practice of peace and reconciliation;
  4. To live and promote dialogue rather than confrontation with those who act and think differently from us;
  5. To set up ministries that enable our people to work effectively for their own integral human development.
Easter Theme: The Family of God that Christ invites us to be
In EASTER, we put priority on fostering:
  • THE VALUES: Co-operation with one another in a spirit of collegiality;
  • Honesty and truth in all circumstances.
Mission Statement Actions:
  1. To help our people better understand the real nature of the Church and her role in society;
  2. To proclaim the Good News of Salvation with renewed vigour and zeal.
In Ordinary Time: Sundays of June and July ’99
Deepening of the Theme of Advent.
In Ordinary Time: Sundays of August and September ’99
Deepening of the Theme of Lent.
In Ordinary Time: Sundays of October and November ’99
Deepening of the Theme of Easter.

ADVENT

Advent Theme: The Family of God Guided by the Spirit prepares for the coming of Christ and His Kingdom
a) From the “Vision, Mission and Values”
Values that Sustain Our Quest For Justice and Peace
We are fully aware that the mission we are called to demands continuous effort and true conversion of mind and heart. We therefore wish to keep before us certain values that will permeate all we do and say, sustain us in our work, redirect our energies and give meaning to whatever we undertake.
During Advent, the values we shall cultivate with God’s help are:
  1. Faith and Trust in God who is always present to us and never denies us the grace we need in our lives and our work;
  2. Hope in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection, the guarantee that we too will triumph over death and evil;
  3. Openness and Docility to the Holy Spirit who inspires and strengthens us.
b) Reflection by the Bishops
Advent is a time traditionally devoted to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent is a time of hope. The scripture readings of the Sundays of Advent speak of our need to believe and to hope more fully in the second coming of Christ and His Kingdom. No matter how hopeless the present may seem, we firmly believe that Christ will indeed overcome all evil and bring us into the Kingdom of His Father.
This hope of Advent is based not on any human power, but on the presence and power of God. He works in human history and He “so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn.3:17).
God hears the cries of the poor and is a faithful God, who does not go back on His promises.
With the coming of Christ, God’s plan becomes clear: “Just as all die in Adam, so in Christ will be brought to life”…. God’s plan for the followers of Christ is that “He chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before Him in love” (Eph.1:4-5).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the One Who judges justly and frees and liberates us from the power of sin. He is the One Who enhances our God given dignity as made in the image of God by making us adopted children of the Father. This dignity of being adopted children of God does not depend on the good pleasure of any person or law of any civil authority. As children of God our Father, adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we have a self worth and value that no merely human power can ever give or take away.
Our faith proclaims that in Christ the Family of God is given an eternal inheritance that restores the Father’s original purpose to His creation, in which “the wolf will lie with the lamb, the panther lie low with the kid…” (Is.11.6). This experience of peace and harmony we know to be Christ’s Kingdom of Justice, Peace and Love, which Christ will hand over to His Father at the end of time. Because we know God is faithful and loving, we have great reasons to hope that indeed “His Kingdom will come”, no matter what earthly power may presently be frustrating His plan.
These gifts of adoption as God’s children who are promised an eternal inheritance in the Father’s Kingdom are solid reasons for our hope in Christ.
The Advent time call us to repent and do away with anything that may frustrate God’s plan in our lives. The scripture readings of Advent give us models for our co-operation with God’s gifts and graces in fostering our Faith and Hope in God’s plan for His Kingdom of Justice and Peace in our lives and communities.
JOHN THE BAPTIST calls us to leave our sinful ways that frustrate God’s plan in our lives. He announces the Good News of Christ’s coming. His witnesses to God’s truth in the face of civil authority, gives us an example to encourage us in our own life situations to follow the lead of the Spirit in our witness to the truth, particularly the truth of our own God given human dignity.
MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS, in her docility to the Spirit, trusted in God accepted His will and co-operated with God in bringing Christ our Redeemer into the world. Mary’s co-operation with God’s plan encourages us to follow the Spirit’s lead in our own lives in trusting in God and doing His will in our own life situations.
In particular, Mary’s example of the holiness and sanctity of family life encourages us to make our homes temples of prayer and Christian life so that Christ’s Spirit may dwell more fully among us and help us live our faith more fully in our day to day lives.
Together with Mary, Mother of Christ and Queen of Peace, we are encouraged to co-operate with the Spirit that as the Family of God, we may more fully hope in the power of Christ to lead us into the Kingdom of His Father.
c) Points From the Liturgy - The Bible and Church Documents for Reflections - Discussion and Action
Liturgical Units:
Sunday 1 of Advent - 29th November 1998
Is.2:1-5: Vision of peace, no more war.
Rom.13:11-14: It is time to wake up, in the light.
Mt.24:37-44: Stay awake.
Nobody can live without a “vision” motivating actions.
What is my vision according to my faith?
The Church proposes a “Vision” of herself and of the Sudan.
Is it much different from mine? Which one helps me best?
Keep awake: do not sit in darkness: do not forget the “Vision”.
Sunday 2 of Advent - 6th December 1998
Is.11:1-10: His word is a rod – lion and calf eat together.
Rom.15:4-9: Hope: following the example of Jesus.
Mt.3:1-12: John the Baptist – Baptism of Spirit and Fire.
In baptism, I was given Spirit and Fire, the Word of the Lord is a rod: do
I still believe this?
How is it that I am so often discouraged, helpless, afraid…..?
From where (who, when) does my fear come?
Can I say that when I remember the Lord, I feel less and less fear?
Immaculate Conception - 8th December 1998
Mary, do not be afraid – the Spirit will come upon you.
The Lord has looked down to his lowly servant: he has done great things. He stretched forth his arm, he raises the lowly.
The Lord to become man has gone down until he found a clean heart. He found it in a lowly girl – from there he made great things.
Sunday 3 of Advent – 13 December ’98
Is.35:1-10: Weary hands, trembling knees -courage!
Jas.5:7-10: The farmer waiting for the rain.
Mt.11:2-11: Are you the one? Happy are those who do not lose faith in me.
Courage, don’t give up!
Whom am I waiting for? Who disappointed me? Why?
Look at the farmer: what is he supposed to wait for? Who sends it?
When the rain delays, he does not lose faith…
Jesus does not disappoint like the - rain.
Sunday 4 of Advent – 20 December ’98
Is.7:10-14: The sign: Virgin with a child.
Rom.1:1-17: The Kerigma you are the one of these nations.
Mt.1:18-24: Joseph do not be afraid to take Mary.
Mary is the Sign in Heaven: what happens to her is work of the Spirit.
Her Jesus saves the people from their sins.
Joseph is no more afraid: an angel guides him always.
Reference to Justice and Peace
In VATICAN II: Constitution in the Modern World (Faudium et spes):
The common good n.26.
Respect of human person n.27.
Equality of all men: social justice no.29.
What the Church offers to societies n.42.
Nature of peace n.78.
Total outlawing of war n.80.
In the AFRICAN SYNOD (“Church in Africa”)
Building the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace n.105.
Energetic witness to justice and peace n.106.
Energetic defence of fundamental human rights.
Proclamation of justice and peace n.107.
Restoring hope to youth n.115
QUESTIONS
  1. What are positive and negative elements of justice and peace in present situation in the Sudan and in our area in particular?
  2. Is there a local committee for justice and peace at diocesan, parish and centres level?
  3. How can we encourage the youth to hope for a better society where there is justice and peace?
  4. What are the obstacles to peace and how to overcome them?
CHRISTMAS
God, the Father, is faithful, he keeps his promises.
He gives us a Redeemer who take away our sins and gives peace to our hearts.
He gives us a Saviour who leads us in our difficulties.
He gives us a Brother who shares in our life.
Holy Family – 27 December, 1998
Mt.2:13-15, 19-23: Flight into Egypt: displaced.
Back from Egypt; returnee.
Where are we? There the Lord is!
He knows, Mary knows, Joseph knows: they are not lost nor afraid.
The Father fulfils his promise of peace: he is like the rain…
Mary Mother of God – 1 January, 1999
Num.622-27:The Blessing.
Gal.4:4-7:We are given the Spirit to say “Father”.
Lk.2:16-21:Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Father, Son, Spirit.
I can truly and always say “Father” to my God – I am never an orphan.
I have my Father’s Spirit (blood) – he will never let me down.
I have some experience of this: it is my blessing: I will always remember it.
I will bless everybody with my Father’s blessing.
Sunday 2 After Christmas – 3 January, 1999
Sir.24:1-2, 8-12: From eternity he created me.
Eph.1:3-6, 115-18: May you see what hope his call holds for you.
Jn.1:1-16: True light that enlightens all men.
There is a call from all eternity.
The call is fullness of life (freedom and peace).
The call is for every person (not only for some).
My life in Jesus is a call to others.
Epiphany - Baptism of Jesus – 10/11 January ’99
Is.60:1-6: Arise, life up your eyes, your heart throbbing for joy.
Eph.3:2-6: The Mystery: the promise is also for gentiles.
Mt.2.1-12: The sight of the star filled them with joy.
The “vision”, the star: fills with joy, hope, courage.
Every man/woman I meet is my brother/sister.
I have to tell (show) him/her – otherwise we live in fear.
Sundays of June and July 1999
Deepening the Theme of Advent.
“We entrust this booklet of Advent to you, the faithful, and to your Church leaders to make it come alive not only with common liturgies and prayer services, but even more deeply with your very lives. The “Vision, Mission and Values” of your Bishops must gradually become your own. They have to be cultivated with patience and perseverance until they become second nature to us. Brothers and Sisters, we have a noble programme to work, suffer and even die for: To co-operate with Christ who will lead us into the way of freedom, justice and peace”. •
THE ORDINARIES OF THE SUDAN