Top post for Sudanese clergy
The Seventh General Assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last October, witnessed the passing of the AACC Secretary
General's torch from Angolan Rev Jose Belo Chipenda to Sudanese Rev Canon
Clement Janda. Charles Omondi recently interviewed Rev Janda on a number of
issue in his home country.
1. What does your recent election as the General Secretary of All Africa
Conference of Churches portend for your mother country Sudan?
The Sudan is one of the constituencies of the All Africa Conference of Churches
and therefore it will receive same attention as other areas of our jurisdiction
which may have similar problems. So, being a Sudanese does not mean I am going
to be concentrating all my efforts on Sudan..
2. Some churches and church personalities in South Africa are today being
accused of not having stood up strongly against the apartheid regime. Do you
envisage similar accusations against some churches in Sudan should a democratic
government of national unity take over power?
Well, I don't think the South African church groupings are an exception, nor
would be those of Sudan. I think the same thing could be said of churches all
over the continent. The situation in South Africa is only very current because
of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is probing everybody and trying
to establish the role that everybody played during the apartheid regime. But I
would say that if we were to have similar commissions in all the 50-plus member
states of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), we would get the same thing
and Sudan would not be an exception.
3. To what extent is Islam a threat to the future of Christianity in Sudan?
Ah...! I wouldn't want to use the word threat. I think threat is your word. I
would say to what extent is Islam a challenge to the future of Christianity in
Sudan, and I would wish to go a bit further by looking at the extent to which
Islam is a challenge to the future of Christianity in the whole continent. I
think it is a good challenge. It is a challenge that tries to put all the
churches to a more serious footing because the only way Islam can thrive in
Christian stronghold is by the church failing to minister. In that sense, is
Islam is a challenge to the Christianity in the continent in general, the same
way it is a challenge to Christianity in Sudan.
Now, I have said this before elsewhere and I want to say it here that people
must always distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islam as a political
ideology. I think what we are seeing in some parts of Africa, Sudan included,
is a situation where a faction of Islam is using the faith as an ideology for
coming to power, an ideology for ascending leadership. That is what is a threat
because I believe that when you begin to use religious principles for political
purposes, then serious problems are bound to arise. For instance, the use of
religion by Joseph Kony of the Lords Resistance Army, who insists on ruling
Uganda on the basis of the 10 commandments, is as much a threat to Christianity
as are Muslim fundamentalists who would like to use Islam as an ideology of
4. The latest round of Sudanese peace talks ended in Nairobi recently without
achieving much. What is your comment on this?
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting anything different from what happened
because the government of Sudan seems to have made up its mind that the Sudan
should be Islamic and it should be united. Anything short of that obviously
wouldn't make them move and therefore I wasn't surprised that the talks ended
the way they did.
5. Do you consider the recently signed peace accord between Khartoum and a host
of rebel factions viable?
Well, that peace accord was signed on April 21, 1997 and now we are in the last
week of November. If it was viable, there would be peace now. The fact that
there is nothing happening on the battle front, the fact that there is nothing
in place to demonstrate that there was a peace agreement in itself is statement
that accord is not viable.
6. What is your opinion on the creation of two Sudans as a lasting solution to
one of Africa's longest wars?
That I believe is a proposal that was also tabled at the discussions by the
Sudan people's liberation movement and I think and hope that the Sudan
government will give very very serious considerations to it.
7. Besides the north-south animosity, it is feared that the hatred between
southern communities themselves is quite intense and deeply entrenched. How true
Ethnic differences in the continent of Africa is still one reality that we
have to live with. I don't think that the case of the Sudan is unique. Ethnic
animosity, rivalries and struggles is a phase in our development. I think ethnic
animosity comes up as a result of perception correctly or otherwise, of
development or lack of it in many parts of our continent. People then tend to
blame it on ethnicity when in fact the problem is that development or resources
are not yet adequate to go round. As more and more areas of development are
tackled, ethnic tension would tend to dissipate. As more and more people begin
to be producers of materials for market and so on, people will tend to recognise
each other as possible markets instead of possible targets for attack because
they are different.
8. Do you have any other comment on the current war in Sudan?
Mine is a prayer that the rest of the Africa would wake up to that long drawn
civil war in Sudan...it is the longest war in Africa dating back to August 18,
1955......a good 42-plus years and that is not a short time for a civil war. A
lot of our people have grown in war and they have never known a society without
war . I think the African people would do a lot of service to the continent by
addressing the issue. Let all the countries and governments of Africa pay
attention to that problem so that it is solved because once the Sudan problem is
solved, in my view, we will have done the continent a lot of good.
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: