A Talk with the Bishop of Yei
Since his appointment as Catholic Bishop of Yei Diocese in 1986. Msgr. Erkolano
T. Lodu had never set foot at the headquarters of his See. At the beginning of
March Yei has fallen under the control of the SPLA, and Bishop Erkolano with a
group of Catholic who were refugees in Uganda have been able to visit the town.
Question: Can you please give a brief account of you academic and professional background
Answer: I was born at Belenyang', Juba District, in 1943. I attended a local
primary school for two years before moving to Rajaf Primary School in our home
parish between 1952-56. In 1957, I joined Karo Minor Seminary in the Diocese of
Juba, then called Vicariate, for a five-year inter-mediate course. In 1962, I
went to St Paul's National Major Seminary in Yei District. In 1964, after the
expulsion of missionaries, the seminary relocated to Juba. The following year,
the seminary moved into exile in Uganda where I did my first and second years of
Philosophy at Lachor Major Seminary, Gulu Diocese. I then studied Theology for
one year. In 1966 I went to Rome, Italy, for further studies, graduating with a
Masters Degree in Philosophy in 1970. I was ordained a priest by Pope John Paul
VI on May 17, 1970 in Rome then I came back home and started working in Juba. I
served in different capacities in different parts of Sudan before being
appointed Bishop of Yei in March 1986.
Q: The diocese you are in charge of has recently fallen to the rebel Sudanese
People's Liberation Army (SPLA), what does this development portend to you and
the Christian community you are in charge of?
A: For me this development is very important. Since I was ordained bishop in
1986 in Khartoum, I had never stepped into the headquarters of my diocese and
the on-going war was one of the major causes of this eventuality. The way to Yei
was always blocked by the rebels, forcing me to administer my diocese from
outside. I was never at ease with this kind of arrangement but there was very
little I could do. I look at what has happened as something providential that
has been able to open my way especially form Uganda where part of my flock is in
exile. A lot of my people have now been able to go back home. Now I will be able
to stay at Yei where I am supposed to stay and serve my people.
Q: Did you and the Christian play a role in fighting the government forces at
A: We did not play an active role in the fight. Our main role has always been to
pray for peace in Sudan. We are always praying to the Lord to change the hearts
of the people of Sudan to understand themselves as brothers and sisters and not
enemies. Certainly! We pray a lot for peace to come to our country by whichever
way. But we are not for violence. Thus, in that case, our help to the SPLA by
way of prayers, is also help to the government.
Q: There has been a peace agreement between the government and some rebel groups
in the south which has excluded the SPLA Mainstream. What in your opinion is
likely to be the outcome of this agreement.
A: First of all, I look at the agreement as a commendable effort towards peace.
But it is a very partial effort. It is non-comprehensive because it is an
agreement between the government and a group of the SPLA factions. The
mainstream SPLA of Dr. John Garang is still fighting. It would have been better
if it was inclusive...meaning involving the Garang and all the other warring
parties. As it were, the war is not over yet. There is also confusion especially
among the civilians as to which groups actually stand for their rights. Some are
saying there is peace while others are insisting that is not the kind of peace
they have been fighting for.
Q: What is the future of Christianity in Sudan considering the stiff opposition
it has always faced from Muslim fundamentalism.
A: The problem in Sudan today relating to religion is just caused by the present
regime. It is the current government that has heightened the question of
religion and politics. We used to co-exist fairly well despite our spiritual
differences but what we are witnessing today is an abuse of religion for
political ends. Islam and Christianity, if well understood, can co-exist very
well. The present Sudanese regime is abusing Islam and Christians see it just
that way. I do not see any danger to Christianity just because of what the
present regime is propagating. Christianity has instead been strengthened by the
attacks on it by the government. Christianity in Sudan has a very bright future.
Q: Taking Sudan as a whole, what in your opinion would bring a lasting solution
to the country's many years of civil strife.
A: One way would be for all the people involved in the current conflict to come
together and talk honestly, sincerely, understand the root cause of the problem
then make appropriate recommendations for solving the crisis. And I think the
root cause of the Sudanese problem is not difficult to understand. There has
always been a tendency to define Sudan as an Islamic Arab state - a country that
is Arab in culture and Islamic in religion. This leaves no room for equality in
Sudan since there are non-Muslim and non-Arab Sudanese. If this can be addressed
with utmost sincerity, and an agreement arrived at on the system of government
to be adopted, and the equitable distribution of the state resources, there
would be an end to the Sudanese crisis. If not, then war will continue in Sudan
for a very long time. So central is this issue that if the Arab-Muslim Sudanese
can not accept to live on equal footing with their non-Muslim brothers, then the
division of the country would be the only viable option.
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: SCIO@MAF.Org