Mission Agencies Call for Prayers after Sudanese Leader’s Death

International mission agencies have called for prayers that a peace agreement in southern Sudan will hold in the wake of the death of one of its principal architects.

The call for prayers came after the recent death of Dr. John Garang, 60, who was killed in a helicopter crash as he returned from a trip to Uganda on Saturday, July 30. The U.S.-educated leader of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army was a signatory to the Comprehensive Peace Accord that in January ended the 21-year strife between north and south. On July 9, he became the First Vice President of Sudan, as the new government agreed upon in the Peace Accord took effect.

“Let us pray that the peace accord will be respected despite this great tragedy,” said the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) for the United Methodist Church.

“We watch developments in southern Sudan carefully because of the protracted conflict there and because we have about a dozen congregations in the area,” Day said. “We are also praying for the peace and prosperity of all the people of Sudan.”

According to the GBGM, appeals to respect the peace in the south were also made by the New Sudan Council of Churches, the Sudan Catholic Bishop’s Conference, and the All African Conference of Churches. Dr. Mvume Dandala, a South African Methodist who leads the latter organization, issued a statement calling upon “the people of Sudan to be calm and demonstrate that commitment to peace that Dr. Garang had wished for when he signed the peace agreement.”

Agencies such as Lutheran World Relief (LWR) have also offered its condolences in light of Garang’s death. On Monday, LWR affirmed its commitment to the people of Sudan, and to working toward a lasting peace in this conflict-torn nation.

"John Garang's death makes an already precarious peace agreement that much more vulnerable," said LWR president Kathryn Wolford. "Now, more than ever, the international community needs to maintain both its political pressure on all sides to honor their commitments, and its support for the vital humanitarian and reconstruction efforts the region will need if lasting peace can truly be achieved. The people of Sudan deserve nothing less and we must not allow this tragedy to undo the prospects for reconciliation."

According to LWR, the agency has made Sudan one of its highest priorities. With nearly $5 million in programming in Sudan and for Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries, it is LWR’s single largest investment in one country.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been assisting both displaced people and local communities in the Sudan.

In April, UMCOR directors approved a start-up budget of more than $1 million for the work in Sudan. The focus has been on the distribution of non-food items, agriculture work and promoting small-scale farming in Southern Darfur.