Dinner for one at "Chez Lobl," in London. I am quietly reading a Sunday newspaper while munching a very English meal of steak and kidney pie. I pour myself another glass of sparkling elderflower pressé. I turn another page of the paper. And there it is. A small item on page 19.
Sudan has ended its 19-year-old war. A brutal civil war that involved impassioned political and religious differences and the enslavement of civilians. Even hunger was used as a weapon against civilians. This war that has killed millions is now most likely over. It is, at the least, drawing its last breath. And that news is tucked away on page 19!
Didn't this happen a few months back in Angola? A long and bloody civil war came to an end without raising headlines. And were you aware of this fact: "Most of Africa enjoyed rapid growth last year, pushing average gross domestic product to 4%." ("Report finds some optimism for Africa-growth rate outstrips rest of the developing world," The Voice, July 22, 2002).
In Africa, it seems, you have to be tragic to make page one in the outside world. But can't we celebrate the good in this great continent as loudly as we highlight its calamities and chronic challenges?
Looking at the details in Sudan, it may be premature to shout about this one from the rooftops. Further talks await in August before a final deal is signed. But, according to the article, "In a surprise announcement negotiators for the Islamic government of the north and leaders of the main rebel movement from the Christian and animist south said yesterday they had resolved the conflict." ("Sudanese see end to Africa's longest war," The Observer, July 21).
To me, as one of those (from inside and outside the country) who have been praying earnestly about this conflict for almost two decades, that seems like good enough news to make the front page. If peace is pending, let's highlight it. If common sense appears to be prevailing over the military clash of wills, let's floodlight it. If Muslims and their Christian and animist "rivals" have seen a way to address the balance of sharia (Islamic law) and non-sharia law in the country's constitution, let's hold that up for closer inspection.
No matter how traumatic the situation that individuals, countries, or continents face, I have confidence that we can celebrate this emergence of good as inevitable for one and all. I believe it's the core of who we are, individually and collectively-as God creates us-and this spiritual core is irrepressible.
To think in this way is a prayer that lends a helping/healing hand to all situations of inharmony, be they ever so intense, be they ever so chronic. And I have been praying this way for Sudan over the years-as I have observed its traumas from my admittedly comfy armchair view, thousands of miles away-because I feel prayer is a vital way of responding, along with appropriate benevolent human actions.
In addition to my charitable donations, I felt impelled, out of love, to pray. By that, I mean I felt it important not only to take in the "facts on the ground," but to meditate on the spiritual facts I also felt applied to the situation. My prayer of spiritual celebration for Sudan has been a prayer affirming peace before that outcome was ever visible on the horizon of events. I have celebrated the peace that I know Muslims, Christians, and others share as offspring of one God. I have celebrated what the Sudanese people represent collectively as God's people-caused, created, and governed by Deity. I have celebrated what God is calling the Sudanese people, and all African people, to be in the divinely planned, spiritual scheme of things-productive, constructive, loved, and looked after.
Now it is time to celebrate Sudan and its people in prayer once again, to support them coming through this next crucial stage-signing, and implementing, a peace agreement. Will you join me in that prayer?
Indeed, it is always time to celebrate all Africa in a heartfelt prayer of gratitude for what this great continent and its God-glorifying people offer by way of an example to the whole world. And it's about time that celebration filtered a little more onto the world's front pages, too!