Sudan: peace process must continue, says WCC

In a 1 August letter to Sudan's churches following the announcement of the death of the country's first vice-president, Dr John Garang, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia has expressed his "deep sadness" and his "solidarity and support" for the churches and people of Sudan.

In a 1 August letter to Sudan's churches following the announcement of the death of the country's first vice-president, Dr John Garang, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia has expressed his "deep sadness" and his "solidarity and support" for the churches and people of Sudan.

Kobia also underlined his "confidence" that "Dr Garang's death should not adversely affect the process towards economic and social reconstruction of Southern Sudan and the need for its people to remain united, and continued concern that the peace process in the country will continue."

"We trust that the Southern Sudanese leadership will continue to nurture the dreams and vision of John Garang and the hope generated through the comprehensive peace agreement. We shall stand by the [...] Sudanese churches in their pastoral and ethical role in the implementation of the peace process and in their ministry of reconciliation and healing of their land," Kobia stated.

The WCC has also sent condolences to the new South Sudanese leader General Sulva Kiir Mayardit.

The WCC will be represented at Dr Garan's funeral by Dr Agnes Abuom, WCC president for Africa, who is currently visiting Sudan as part of an ecumenical delegation.

The WCC has a long history of supporting peace efforts in the war-torn country, and Kobia served as a special ecumenical envoy to Sudan before taking office as WCC general secretary.

The full text of the letter is given below:

"It is with deep sadness that I received the news about the untimely death of Dr John Garang. On behalf of the World Council of Churches, and on my own behalf, I send the churches and the people of Sudan our sincere condolences. Our prayers and thoughts are with you during this mournful period.

As the leader of Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) Dr Garang came to embody the struggle of the people of Southern Sudan. He was totally committed to the struggle for justice, peace and dignity for all the people of Sudan. It was a struggle for which he dedicated his life and for which he was prepared to die if need be. It is only a few months ago that his dream and vision were considerably fulfilled with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement resulting in his assuming the position of first vice-president of Sudan and president of South Sudan in the new political dispensation. It is most lamentable that he should die in the manner he did, in a helicopter crash.

Dr Garang's demise is a tragedy of enormous proportions. His death is a huge loss not only to the people of Sudan but to the people of Eastern Africa and the continent as a whole. I got to know Dr Garang very well during my intensive involvement in the peace negotiations for the SPLM. He was a greatly talented intellectual, and a selfless and charismatic leader. In John Garang Sudan has lost a valuable son and a committed nationalist whose life was devoted to the struggle of his people. As you try to come to terms with this huge loss please be assured of our support and solidarity.

Our confidence is that the implications of Dr Garang's death should not adversely affect the process towards economic and social reconstruction of Southern Sudan and the need for its people to remain united. We pray for God's wisdom and direction so that a peaceful transition will prevail. We trust that the Southern Sudanese leadership will continue to nurture the dreams and vision of John Garang and the hope generated through the comprehensive peace agreement. We shall stand by the NSCC, SCC and the Sudanese churches in their pastoral and ethical role in the implementation of the peace process and in their ministry of reconciliation and healing of their land."