‘catholic’ is from the Greek ‘katholou’ meaning, ‘as a whole’. So when Anglicans talk about being part of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, that’s one of the things they mean… we are part of the whole.
It was interesting to read Bishop Nick Baines blog today, he writes about the visit of Bishop Ezekiel of Khartoum, which he apparently spoke about on thought for the day… (I’m sorry I’m not really one for the radio these days so I missed the spot).
But I didn’t miss Bishop Ezekiel Kondo; after his visit to Bradford diocese, we were privileged to host him here in Salisbury diocese, in our own deanery. Bishop Ezekiel is a bishop in the Episcopal Church of Sudan… Sudan itself having fractured into two countries in 2011. South Sudan seceded (separated) from the northern part of the country…
Now, although the northern government admits that there are at least 100,000 Christians in Sudan, they are trying to claim they are an entirely Islamic nation… not primarily for spiritual reasons, but because that way this poor nation would gain the financial backing of several wealthy Arab nations… unfortunately the presence of practicing Christians and Christian organisations of various denominations is an inconvenient hindrance to this declaration. An inconvenience that in such an unstable situation, forces in power might be tempted to deal with by violence and oppression rather than diplomacy and reason.
What is more, they are trying to reframe the nation of Sudan as though it were a territory that had always been Islamic and ruled by arabs, seeking to rewrite history in this frame.
However, thankfully it is unlikely this lie will take permanent root… for one thing, the incredible medieval archaeology of Nubia (now Sudan) including the amazing Christian cathedral of Faras, are of such international significance historically and culturally, that, although many artefacts are spread across the world (having been saved for posterity after an international plea when a new dam was built that flooded important archaeological areas) that no-one could seriously believe the history was so tidy. Though the current leaders would perhaps wish it as black and white as oil and sand.
So the Sudanese Bishop came to rural middle class Wiltshire… and we are being called upon to make room in our prayer lives and hearts for the people of Sudan, and particularly those Sudanese whose faith in Christ makes them so economically inconvenient. I hope that the government of Sudan will see that trying to rewrite such a rich multicultural history will only make them appear more unstable, and that to be taken seriously on the world stage, it is worth pursuing the long road to peace and freedom of religion, not the short road to temporary wealth and longterm fighting. And in the meantime, we will stay in touch with our Christian sisters and brothers in the church universal, and entrust one another to God.