Day Message to
the Anglican Catholic Church of
Spencer Street, Ottawa
A very blessed Christmas Day to all
This is evidently the second service
many of you have attended earlier
today or last night.
It is meant to bring together
in fellowship families and individuals
from Sudan on one of the most
important days of the Christian
Permit me therefore to offer a message
which touches briefly on four
- The meaning of today for most Canadian Christians,
- The need for reconciliation and forgiveness among
- The role of Sudanese women today, and
- The peace negotiations in
Whether Jesus was actually born on
December 25th is, of
course, far less important than
the fact of his coming to the
Jesus himself never encouraged
followers to celebrate his birth.
What is central is that
God so loved human kind that he
sent His Son to be born, to live
among us in a world of pain, to
understand everyone, to love and
forgive all of us, and to die
for each one of us.
Probably no-one in recent history caught
the significance of Jesus' life
in a relatively few lines better
than the anonymous man or woman
is a man who was born in an obscure
village, the child of a peasant
He grew up in another village.
He worked in a carpenter
shop until He was thirty.
Then for three years He
was an itinerant preacher.
never owned a home.
He never wrote a book.
He never held office.
He never had a family.
He never went to college.
He never put His foot inside
a big city.
He never travelled two
hundred miles from the place He
He never did one of the
things that usually accompany
He had no credentials but
still a young man, the tide of
popular opinion turned against
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.
He was turned over to His
He went through the mockery
of a trial.
He was nailed upon a cross
between two thieves.
While He was dying His
executioners gambled for the only
piece of property he had on earth
– His coat.
When He was dead, He was
laid in a borrowed grave through
the pity of a friend.
long centuries have come and gone,
and today He is a centrepiece
of the human race and leader of
the column of progress.
am far within the mark when I
say that all the armies that ever
marched, all the navies that were
ever built, all the parliaments
that ever sat and all the kings
that have ever reigned, put together
have not affected the life of
man upon this earth as powerfully
as has that one solitary life
In Ottawa, as in other capitals across
North America and Europe, our
challenge as believers is to separate
the spiritual wheat from the commercial
chaff during this season.
In a presumed effort to
be inclusive of other faiths this
year, a lot of really silly things
have been done by many, including
The sales staff at one
clothing chain were even told
to offer only "Happy Holidays"
In Winnipeg, the "multicultural
tree", however, has been
restored by the Manitoba Premier
as a Christmas tree.
Persons of any or no religion
can identify with the generosity,
peace and-good-will-to-all and
family dimensions of Christmas.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, I understand
that there is far more of the
spiritual at Christmas, Africans
are fortunate there.
Many of you have family still in Sudan,
which must make this season especially
The Sudanese community
evidently has become a substitute
family for some of you. It's not
so different in some ways than
that First Christmas in which
Mary and Joseph found themselves
alone in Bethlehem when their
first child was born.
They had the wise shepherds;
you have each other.
A Canadian who lived for a decade in
the Maldives, where the population
is almost entirely Muslim, recently
asked, "How can people of
one faith reconcile with adherents
of another if they essentially
dislike each other?"
He went on, "Some Maldives' residents
say that most pornography is produced
in Christian countries."
If so, should you and I
not point out that most Christians
are just as concerned about this
particular species of hate crime
against women and children as
are Muslims? No doubt, those who produce, for example, child
pornography are members of no
My friend from the Maldives, who is
a Christian, introduced another
When talking to persons
of other faiths, he thinks it
prudent to call himself a "Follower
of Jesus" to separate himself
from the Crusades, Inquisition
and other understandably very
bad memories for people of some
You will perhaps be saying to yourselves,
"But what about all the terrible
things done in Sudan and elsewhere
purposely in the name of another
The answer must be that
anyone who kills or brutalizes
people in the name of any
religion, whether it be Christianity,
Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or whatever,
dishonours their faith terribly.
Let me know offer a true story of Christian-Muslim
reconciliation from Sudan.
In 1971, as you know, Joseph Lagu was
the leader in southern Sudan during
the first civil war.
A plane from the North
crashed one day in an area held
by Lagus' troops, with 29 survivors.
The cry was for death,
but Lagu insisted on reflecting
overnight. He recalled that Jesus asked how many things
one should forgive, replied "seventy
The prisoners were accordingly
released unharmed the next morning
Their account to Khartoun
helped to persuade the government
of the day to sign the Addis Ababa
agreement, which ended the conflict
for more than ten years.
Two decades later, Lagu and another
general, Mohamed Al-Abdeen, a
Muslim and a northerner, together
shared a podium at a spiritual
retreat at Caux, Switzerland.
The northerner told the
audience: "We generals are
living in the same room, very
He (Lagu) starts in the
morning reading his Bible.
I read the Koran.
I have got something which
we can share together because
we believe in the same God. A just and lasting peace can only be achieved
through a process of reconciliation,
compromise and confidence-building."
President Obasanjo of Nigeria, who
knows well the difficulties in
reconciling faith, politics and
spirituality, has said. "true
believers, be they Muslims or
Christians, know all humans are
created by God and ought not be
harmed, but could."
of Sudanese Women
mention briefly the changing role
of women and men in Sudan as a
consequence of the civil war,
which has gone on, with some periods
of peace, since 1955, and the
resulting deaths and displacements
of so many million civilians of
all ages across the country.
Once, family security and the provision
of a home were the responsibility
of fathers, but today many mothers
make key decisions about where
to live, what to ear, what to
eat and how to manage the finances.
Far too many Sudanese mothers
are today the only breadwinners.
They provide security to
the children while fathers are
fighting on the front line with
either the SPLA or the Government
of Sudan. Others are in prisons or have been otherwise
separated from their families.
Consider what our dear friend Justin
Laku has found Baba Maali saying
about African women:
is a hymn to the beauty, wisdom
and importance of the African
woman. She is the earth and the sea, the sunshine
and the deliverer of life.
It is her participation
in every aspect of our lives culturally,
politically and socially that
we rely upon in the building of
our new Africa.
Women of every country
stand up and together protect
As we know, the environment
is only as good as the woman who
Three decades and three years after
Mary's oldest child was born,
she watched Jesus be killed in
a terrible way by occupying Roman
Like so many Sudanese and
other mothers who have undergone
similar agony, Mary did not lose
her faith in God.
The future of Sudan will probably depend
in part on its refugees in distant
lands like Canada.
You parents must ensure
that your children obtain the
best possible education and values,
including a respect for the dignity
of all persons, democracy and
In future, some of them
and you will no doubt be able
to return to build a prosperous,
democratic and inclusive Sudan.
On the current peace process in
Kenya, the International Crisis
Group (ICG) concluded a week ago
that it is now in a make of break
The earlier agreement of
both sides on a cease fire and
unimpeded aid access has been
extended and a new memo of understanding
on power sharing has now been
The chief mediator, Lazaro Sumbbeiymo, says the ICG is doing
an excellent job.
Leaders on both sides appear
to be giving peace a chance."
Among the ICG recommendations to the
various groups involved are these
1)The benefits of a peace agreement
based on compromise by both sides
must be sold throughout
2)The government of Sudan must be urged
to reschedule quickly the meeting
of the Technical Committee on
Humanitarian Affairs so that it
can remove all restrictions on
aid access and on the geographic
scope of Operation Lifeline.
3)The SPLA should be transformed into
a political party; good governance
and economic development in the
South should be recognized.
If the SPLA is responsible
for a lack of progress in negotiation,
it should be provided with no
4)Those in Khartoun who are firmly
committed to peace should be encouraged
and pressured on the government
there to reach a peace agreement
must be continued.
We Christians know very well that Christmas
Day only marks the beginning of
Easter and the death and
resurrection of Jesus are, of
course, more important for His
estimated two billion followers
alive around the world.
Incidentally, today, this
figure is expected to grow to
about 2.6 billion within 25 years.
In terms of numbers, which are often
not really very helpful, we also
know that there is basis for real
optimism about the future of Christianity.
In Africa, for example,
only about ten per cent of the
population of about 100 million
were Christians in 1900; today
in a continental population of
784 million, about 46 percent,
on 360 million, are Christians.
In Canada, the vast majority of us
still identify with the Christian
faith tradition – more than four-fifth
in one survey I noticed recently
– and the largest gathering of
Canadians in our entire history
from 800,000 to 1.2 million depending
on the estimate – turned out last
summer in Toronto to hear Pope
John Paul's final mass for World
Our duty as Christians and in all the
days of the new and every year
is to attempt to be beacons of
kindness, love and light among
ourselves and with all we encounter
in Canada and anywhere.
God bless Sudan! God bless us all today!