I have a Sudanese student in one of my classes. I had already known him for a couple of years before this semester through campus life. He is a fine human being with a smile full of sunshine. Today his mother came to visit, on her way to a conference on the West Coast.
They were in my office for a while, and while our conversation is not something I would talk about in detail on-blog, I do want to say how important the visit felt. First, because it is always a delight to meet our students' parents, and a special honor to meet parents who come from far away. Also, because of a church connection: the young man and his family are members of, and leaders in, the Episcopal Church of Sudan. His mother was on her way to an international Christian women's conference of a group I knew largely as being a conservative evangelical organization in the U.S. and whose international dimension I did not know. Through this group my student's mother is working to provide economic, psychological, and spiritual support to women in Sudan, especially those displaced and traumatized by war. The young man's father is bishop in a diocese that is the gateway to Southern Sudan. (Note to Chicago people: the Diocese of Renk, Sudan has a companion relationship with the Diocese of Chicago, as you probably know.)
In our congregation we pray for the people of Sudan every Sunday because one of our members is active with Save Darfur and keeps us aware of the situation there.
So, once we had had our mother/son/teacher conversation we spoke about all this. I told Deborah --that is her name-- about our prayers, she told me a little about her work with the women, and we promised to stay in touch.
Perhaps our congregation can build some ties, through these beginnings of friendship, with people in our Communion who are half a world away and with whom we share common humanity and faith.
The Current Unpleasantness seems and will seem very small in the face of both the life and death situation of so many and the power of faithful friendship.
Do you know about AFRECS? (The acronym stands for American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.)
My friend Mary Hunt is right: there is an intrinsic connection between friendship and work for justice.
Pray for the church. Pray for the people. Pray for this fragile earth, our island home.
May our prayers be yeast for action and our action be leavened with prayer.