Interview with Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of Wau
Reciprocal understanding amid diversity
The true challenge for the Church in Sudan is to teach its people to live in diversity and to accept one another without prejudices. The goal is to make Sudan a place "that is at peace with itself and that accepts its children the way that they are" — humans created in God's image and likeness. These are among the difficulties and hopes that Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of Wau discussed in an interview given in English to L'Osservatore Romano's Italian daily edition. We publish excerpts below.
What are the prospects for the future of a Church in a country where they are trying to introduce the Sharia law?
When you say they are trying to introduce the Sharia law, you mean the North of the country, because the South of Sudan is free of Sharia. We are not able to anticipate the reaction of the non-Muslims in the North or the effect the imposition would have.
According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) non-Muslims in Khartoum should be treated in a way which will give them a sense of belonging to Sudan, which will convince them that they have everything to gain in unity. In order to make unity attractive there needs to be a recognition of their right — to be a different culture, to be different in their religious profession, to be different in other ways according to their culture and tradition.
If they introduce and apply the Sharia law in the North I am afraid this will work against the unity that the Sudanese are talking about, against making the unity of Sudan attractive to everybody. Making unity attractive means realizing that other people have the right to be different, and to practice their religion. And if this does happen it will threaten the unity of Sudanese people that a lot of people are working hard to achieve.
How do you think that Sudan will be able to emerge from the conflicts that are affecting it?
It is basically a question of the acceptance of one another. Sudanese people, not all of them accept one another; they don't accept that others want to be Sudanese and yet not be Christian, that one can be a Sudanese and yet not be a Muslim.
This is very difficult for some people, those who are not yet convinced that we all come from one source that is God, the merciful and loving Father. We all come from him. None of us choose our own mothers and fathers. I did not choose to be black, nor did you choose to be white. No, we are what we are by birth.
So this is basically the problem. There are people hoping that Sudan will be a place where everyone will be Christian or everyone will become Muslim. We tell them honestly and in a very friendly way that this is not possible. And so if we want a Sudan that is inclusive, if we want it to be home to all who are there, then we have to accept ourselves to be racially, culturally and religiously different and yet to work for a Sudan in which everybody finds himself or herself at home.
Sudan needs courage, humility and generosity of heart, so that we can accept one another.
From 11-18 April, general elections will be held — the first multi-party elections in 24 years. What are your hopes?
We hope that the leaders chosen in this election will come out with a vision of Sudan which is inclusive, something along the lines that we see in Switzerland, India, the United States, Brazil: wherever everybody feels at home and everyone is accepted regardless of race, religion, sex, culture.
We all will be at home provided that all these characteristics are accepted. We will live together in a nation that is God-given, that is at peace with itself and that accepts its children the way that they are.
How does the Church intervene vis-a-vis the human rights violations, as in Darfur, for example?
Every diocese has a Justice and Peace Commission in order to educate our population, to educate our faithful on the right understanding of justice and peace. It is our Catholic tradition and we have it in the official documents of the Church, especially in the social teaching of the Church. The Bishops of Rome have insisted on the right to understand that we were all created in God's image and likeness and that we all answer to him, regardless of whether we are Christian or not.
So that is part of our Catholic teaching about the human person, regardless of race or religion, regardless of whether he is poor or rich, whether he is a professor in a university or works in the fields — each of us is created after God's own image and likeness and we are sacred, which we must respect.
After the last war that was concluded in 2005, the Church has worked to promote these ideas through the Peace and Justice Commissions in the dioceses, in the villages, with the families. The idea is to have a human society with these Christian communities and with those who are faithful to the teaching and to the example of our Divine master.
We are in dialogue with the Government of Darfur and basically we are bringing home to them the vision of Christianity — of a society that is free, where people love truth, life and holiness and seek peace for all. And all humans who seek the truth, who seek the teaching of Christ, find all of their aspirations fulfilled.
We don't impose anything on a non-Christian government, we only propose. We propose Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life and anyone who accepts him loses nothing; instead he finds himself enriched. This is our faith.
How is the Church engaged in providing health care and doing charitable work?
We are involved in HIV/AIDS programmes in all our parishes, in all our dioceses. It is part of the mission of the Church to take care of the needy, to assist the poor.
We have one hospital that we are just finishing now and we have health centres in all our parishes because we know the human person is spirit and body. And the Lord Jesus also took care of the body when he was in a position to, because through the body we take care of the spirit, through the body we are able to show to our fellow men that we care for them.
It has just been 4.5 years since the long war that lasted 22 years. The school of the Catholic Bishops' Conference is training paramedics in the health centres, for example. It is in the tradition of the Church that we take care of the poor, the human body and the human spirit. We want to offer support and help in this crucial area so that people feel they belong to the family of God.
Weekly Edition in English
17 March 2010, page 4
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