Challenges facing Pacong Diocese

Pacong is a young Diocese of the Episcopal church of Sudan. It was carved out from older Rumbek Diocese in 2009. It has a population of about 100,000 people of which over half is Christian, mainly Episcopal church members. Most of these church members pray under trees.

Samaritan's Purse helped us built eight churches including the cathedral in the Diocesan headquarters. These eight churches are permanent concrete buildings but there are over 120 congregations still praying under trees.

Pacong Diocese faces a number of challenges. To mention just a few, they are:

  1. No constant source of income for the clergy

  2. Most clergy are not theologically trained. Majority of them are not educated beyond primary four. A good number of them can only read and write Dinka language.

  3. No development projects/programmes in the Diocese. Poverty level is very high in the population of Pacong Diocese particularly among the clergy. Pacong Diocese has 50 ordained clergy. All of them are volunteers in the church. The Diocese does not pay them anything. Each clergy is responsible for his/her (family) food, housing, transport, health and education of the children. Pacong is a rural Diocese. People live on subsistence agriculture. A household may possess a number of domestic animals (cattle, sheep, goats) but the animals are local breeds that produce very little amount of milk or meat.

Before the civil war broke out between South and North Sudan in 1983, Diocese of Rumbek was the only Diocese covering the whole of current Lakes State. The main causes of the civil war were imposition of Islamism and Arabism by the North Sudan on mainly Christian, African South Sudan. Political and economic marginalization of the South was the consequence. South Sudan is the least developed part of the world today despite its endowment with rich natural resources.

During the civil war (1983-2004) The Southern liberation movement (Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) captured majority of towns and rural South Sudan.

90% of the population of the South was under the control of SPLM/A in the first five years of the war. This created a favourable environment conducive for church activities. The local and international churches were in full swing in aiding and rescuing internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees in neighbouring countries and the church of Sudan was the fastest growing church during the war years. Only 5% of the population of South Sudan was classified as Christian before the war, but it is at present estimated that 85% of the South Sudan is Christian.

This is one mystery of this war. God has called his own people to himself. As a result, Dioceses have proliferated and clergy multiplied manifold. Pacong Diocese is appealing to the Anglican Communion worldwide to come to the aid of its clergy as a short term solution (2-3 years) .Even a small amount of 150 USD per a month for each clergy will go a long way in supporting this rural clergy. This will amount to 1800 USD in a year for each clergy and a total of 90,000 USD for the whole Pacong Diocese in a year.

In the long term, Pacong Diocese has to develop its resources particularly in agriculture and education. The Diocese has number of project proposals to operate agricultural schemes (field crops, vegetable gardens and animal husbandry).The Diocese wishes to establish primary schools and adult education institutions that could be paid for in term of fees. The church has a very prestigious position in running schools in the Sudan that is second to none.

The Diocese needs to be enabled to purchase modern agricultural tools (ox-ploughs, tractors, irrigation pumps, seeds - etc).

Training of clergy is also a long term solution to their knowledge poverty. Adult education classes can be opened for the clergy to increase their English level. A number of short courses for theological training could be organised annually to increase their biblical knowledge.

Translations of some course works from English to Dinka may be an option in the first two years. All these programmes need funding.

The people of South Sudan have recently exercised their right to self-determination in a referendum. The voting started on 9th January2011 and ended on 15th instant. It was the most peaceful, transparent, free and fair event in the history of South Sudan despite expectation to the contrary. It has given hope to the people of the South Sudan and the whole world that if they can run a credible referendum, they may achieve much more in the future.

The church of Sudan was/is a stakeholder in this exercise and did everything possible in civic education, preaching peace and praying for the whole Sudan. God heard our prayers. The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for freedom and independence from North Sudan 99.57%.

It is our prayer that South and North Sudan be peace-loving neighbours and independent countries; come 9th July 2011.

I appeal to Anglican Communion to come to the spiritual and physical assistance of South Sudanese people in their hour of need as a new born country. Your assistance during the 21-year civil war has made church of Sudan what it is today. The courageous visit of Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Carey, in December 1993 to Rumbek Diocese in the bush is worth mentioning and an example to follow and emulate in this regard.

God bless you all.

Rt-Rev. Joseph Maker Atot
Bishop of Pacong Diocese