Two Sudanese bishops who have been welcomed to West Yorkshire and the Dales this week would never have made it here without the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury on their behalf, it’s been revealed.
When visas were refused for Bishop Abdu Al-Nur Kodi and Bishop Hassan James, Lambeth Palace stepped in and persuaded Home Office officials that their visit to the UK should go ahead. The two bishops, from war-torn Sudan, have been visiting Canterbury and Salisbury, before heading for Yorkshire where they are spending a week, visiting churches and meeting supporters in the Bradford and Ripon Episcopal Areas.
The exchange visit will see the Bishop of Bradford, Bishop Toby Howarth, who chairs the Sudan group, travelling home with them to Khartoum the following week on his first visit as bishop to the partner dioceses in the troubled country. With him will be two more link supporters from the Bradford Episcopal Area – the first time a group from the diocese has visited Sudan.
In a moving meeting at Ben Rydding, before heading to inner city Bradford (Bishop Abdu) and rural snow swept Ingleborough in North Yorkshire (Bishop Hassan), the two bishops met supporters and told of the trials and dangers they have been facing in their episcopal ministry. Their message to the diocese: “Please pray for Peace”.
Bishop Hassan James (pictured left) was consecrated as Assistant Bishop of Kadugli in July last year to lead work in the government held Nuba Mountains. His diocese is about half the size of Bishop Abdu's but is also split in two by civil war. Bishop Hassan is ministering to the northern, government held half.
He movingly spoke of being a Christian young man in a Muslim household, of his early ministry and of the tragic death of his wife in a gas explosion shortly before he was due to take on the role of bishop. He showed pictures of the devastated churches, homes and schools in the diocese of Kadugli caused by fighting between government forces and rebels . “Our hands are empty” he said. ”We visit the people but we have nothing to give them”.
Bishop Abdu the Bishop of Port Sudan, (pictured right with Revd Michael Cowgill, the Vice Chair of the Sudan Link Group) is responsible for churches in Port Sudan, an important shipping terminal on the Red Sea in a largely desert area, but also churches in towns on a long road south to Wad Medani, a distance of about 800 miles. His diocese is the eastern side of Sudan, covering an area 200 miles by 600 miles.
A former policeman, Abdu became a committed Christian in the 1980s before becoming a Pastor. He told of the difficulties facing Christians in an area where they are being denied jobs and support because of their faith – Christian charities have been forced to leave the country. But like Bishop Hassan, he praised the work of the Mothers’ Union which had a big part to play, creating work, building relationships across the faiths, and supporting Christian families.
During the rest of their time here, Bishop Hassan will be visiting churches in the Ripon Area and meeting with Bishop James Bell at Ripon Cathedral on Monday 22nd. Both bishops will also be at Bradford Cathedral on Saturday afternoon for the welcoming service for the new Archdeacon, Ven Andy Jolley.
It is hoped that the Kadugli Appeal, launched by Bishop Nick in 2011, can continue to provide money for those in desperate need. So far it has raised around £200,000 including Gift Aid.