Learn more about the Partnership for Community Health and Capacity-Building in the Republic of S. Sudan.
What is the purpose of this program?
This program seeks to assist the Episcopal Church of Sudan by strengthening its leaders, and to create a robust community health program.
What is the need in the Republic of South Sudan (RSS)?
The RSS has emerged from 39 years of civil war in which Christians were targeted for persecution, death, and slavery. The country, which will celebrate independence on July 9, 2011, has a population of roughly 11 million with an estimated 4.5 million belonging to the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS).
Maternal mortality is the highest in the world in RSS, and its under-five infant mortality rate is 112 per 1,000. In 2004, there was just one doctor per 500,000 people. Malnourishment is severe and, with the influx of Christians leaving N. Sudan after the referendum, population pressures are expected to make the situation more difficult in the short-term.
What is community health?
In places where health care is not an option due to a lack of doctors and clinics, community health can provide a sustainable, hopeful alternative to going without care at all. We seek to train wise women in the Episcopal Church of Sudan to assess, diagnose, and treat common yet often serious health problems such as malaria and pneumonia. We expect them to distribute life-saving materials like anti-malaria nets and rehydration salts. They will promote safe drinking water, the creation of community gardens, midwife-attended births, breastfeeding, and refer more serious problems to health clinics as possible.
According to the S. Sudan Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization’s office in Juba, “community health workers (CHW) play a vital and unique role in linking diverse and underserved populations to health and social service systems. Despite their effectiveness, as documented by empirical studies across various disciplines including public health, nursing, and biomedicine, the value and potential role of CHWs in the social work practice and research literature has been largely absent. Thus it is important to highlight the role of CHWs in promoting culturally appropriate practice, and their utility in collaboration with social workers in community settings. The close alignment of CHWs with social values and principles of social justice, suggests opportunities for enhanced social work practice and research. (May 2010)
What will this program accomplish?
We expect to see a robust community health program that builds a realistic and enduring bridge between “what is” now and what “will be” in the future.
In a 2011 a study about East African community gardening in RSS, Uganda and Tanzania found that this important aspect of a community health program led to these results for local women:
- 87% increased food consumption
- 40% sold surplus at market
- 15% developed small businesses
- 90% improved their economic self-confidence
- and there was a significant increase as well in savings behavior
Source: FHI Roads II program, 2011.
We also expect that the ECS will be better positioned to serve the Sudanese population and offer theological education to the church’s leaders. American churches benefit from this partnership as they engage with the vibrant African church, which can teach us a lot about what it means for the church to help a community flourish.
Where is the Episcopal Church of Sudan now that Sudan is two countries?
The ECS covers North and South Sudan, including Darfur. The Archbishop is not able to go into many areas of the North and Darfur given severe religious persecution. The headquarters of the ECS is in Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan.
What are the core values behind this program?
Our team seeks concrete, practical engagement with the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. We seek to show evidence of these marks while inventing a new, fragile future alongside a great African and Episcopal leader, Archbishop Daniel.
We emphasize that this mission seeks the flourishing of all humans, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Finally, we also believe that the Five Marks fully correlate to the Millennium Development Goals which seek to reduce extreme poverty and inequality and are already incorporated into many church and NGO value systems.
Who is on this team?
Credible leaders who have produced real results constitute this team. The Africa team is led by one of the most trusted and credible leaders in East Africa, Archbishop Daniel. The U.S. team includes leaders from Duke Divinity School at Duke University, Wake County (NC), and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia supported by a world-class staff.
There is a lot of need in a lot of places. Why South Sudan?
The Episcopal Church in Africa is one of the youngest, largest, and most vibrant parts of the Anglican-Episcopal communion. It is also one of the poorest. We have a chance to strengthen our entire communion, as well as learn about what it means to be a Christian when something is at stake. Being a Christian in Sudan has often carried a death sentence. We now can participate in the healing of some truly great people who have suffered for their religion.
Realistically, the North American church cannot thrive in the 21st century unless it is in partnership with the church in Africa, where there is vision — fresh, widely shared, and realistic — for the church's relevancy and indispensability to human flourishing. That vision will mature more rapidly and be theologically richer if North American theological educational institutions share in a mutual exchange of knowledge with the African church.
Africa offers a variety of models of churches (including our partner, the Episcopal Church of Sudan) as vibrant cultural institutions and the builders of social infrastructure, serving and trusted by Christians and non-Christians alike.
I hear there is a lot of corruption in East Africa.
There is, and you need to be careful with whom you partner. We are fortunate that Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak is one of the most esteemed and trusted people in Sudan. He and the ECS organization have a track record of positive, results-oriented stewardship that has bettered the condition of the poorest of the poor. Duke University and dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. have found this partnership to be credible, sustainable, and committed to integrity.
Who will benefit?
Most immediately, the people of Sudan, Southern Sudan, and the surrounding areas will receive the greatest benefit. Churches participating in the rebuilding have an opportunity to be rejuvenated in conversations about a renewed sense of purpose, as this work truly matters.
Foreign entities, such as the US and other global Sudanese partners will also benefit from investment opportunities, natural resources, and diplomatic ventures that a peaceful, stable, flourishing Southern Sudan will provide.
Why is Duke Divinity School involved?
At the Divinity School, we have developed a holistic model of theological education, that includes community health and sustainable gardening/agriculture as well as traditional theological subjects. As this model implies, theology and spirituality are inseparable from knowledge of and concern for the material, economic, and other social aspects of human existence.
Faculty, students, and alumni have traveled periodically to Sudan, while members of ECS have traveled to DDS to study and live. Currently, plans exist for a member of ECS to come to DDS to study in the ThM program. The Divinity School's relationship with ECS have been lasting, significant, and one of direct, immense educational and experiential benefits.
What Biblical foundation is there for our church supporting another church? Is that sustainable? Aren’t they supposed to live within their means? What is the Biblical Basis for community health?
The church has been sustained for two thousand years using a financial model that includes sharing resources between rich and poor churches, especially with churches under persecution, which the church in Sudan has certainly been. (During four decades of civil war an estimated 1.5 million Christians were killed on the basis of their religion.)
Shared funds add to those collected from each church’s tithing community.
Specifically, when Paul was imprisoned, he praised the church of Philippi for joining in his distress by sending aid after his needs, calling their gifts "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God." (Phil 4:18) When the church in Jerusalem was in need of support, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church praising the Macedonians who "gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints" (2 Cor 8:4).
James defines such help as true religion, "caring for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).
Community health is a theological discipline. Jesus’ healings in the New Testament are to “bring good news to the afflicted” and “sight to the blind” but “proclaim liberty to captives” and “proclaim a year of favor from the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2). Demoniacs are calmed, paralytics walk, lepers are cleansed, the unclean are made clean so they might return from the margins, take up their pallets, show themselves to the rabbi, and resume full participation in the community from which they were estranged.
Community health reveals the true works of power. Community health restores the diseased, ailing, and estranged from the margins to community.
I thought the Africans left the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church of Sudan remains at the table with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak has promised to continue in our communion. And with 4 million plus members, he represents a sizeable voice of our communion.
Are we alone in our work here?
We are not. Many are supporting the rebuilding of South Sudan. Where we have particular responsibilities is to the Episcopal Church of Sudan because they invited us, they are part of our communion, and they represent great hope for our own transformation.
Those committed to helping the ECS include:
- The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
- The Diocese of Southwestern Virginia in USA
- The Diocese of Missouri in USA (linked with the Diocese of Lui)
- The Diocese of Chicago, IL - (linked with the Diocese of Renk)
- The Diocese of Bethlehem in USA (linked with the Diocese of Kajo Keji)
- AFRECS - American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan
- St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Barrington, Illinois (linked with Renk Theological College and the Diocese of Renk)
- The Diocese of Salisbury in UK
- The Diocese of Bradford in UK (linked with the four northern Dioceses of Khartoum, Kadugli, Port Sudan and El Obeid)
- The Sudan Church Association in UK
- A group (in Salisbury Diocese) are fundraising to build a school in Kadugli Diocese
Why should people in the U.S. be involved? Isn’t that “colonial”?
The U.S. funding of an African project is paternalistic or colonial if it seeks to subjugate or exploit the recipients. Our agenda is not to take anything from ECS or require ECS to compromise its principals or standards. Instead, it is our goal to empower ECS and partner with them on initiatives of ECS’ choosing in response to request made by ECS. Further, Archbishop Daniel invited our participation, and we are walking alongside a great African leader supporting an indigenous initiative led by one of the greatest East African leaders today.
As the Anglican bishop of Gulu, Uganda said, “We know the difference between people who come to help us with the Gospel, education and health, and those who exploit us. We are profoundly grateful to those who have helped us. Where would we be without the Christian hospitals and schools?”
I hear that lots of people are working in RSS? Can we combine efforts?
Combining efforts is a great idea as we find and develop partners with a shared vision. That combination of efforts is best done on the ground in Sudan by the ECS staff. We can help by networking. At present there is not a strong collective impact group working to support the largest NGO in RSS: the Episcopal Church of Sudan.
How sustainable is this project? I hear after the funders go, things fall apart.
The purpose of the project is to build infrastructure and establish organizational and management practices that will allow the ECS to run projects and programs without the presence of funders or westerners.
What will this cost?
The capacity building program and the community health program are estimated to cost US$220,000. US$70,000 will cover the cost of sending a person trained in organizational management and theology with solid East African experience to RSS. US$150,000 will help implement a realistic and enduring community health program in two major population centers.
Can this be replicated?
Yes, what we are planning is relatively simple in nature, but will have a significant impact on ECS and its constituents.