.- Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, the Sudanese Archbishop of Khartoum who’s people often call him “Father Courage,” has marked his silver jubilee by writing a moving testimony of his people’s struggle against oppression and poverty, Aid to the Church in Need has reported.
In his 25 years as Archbishop of Khartoum (he was appointed by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 10, 1981), Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako has led the Christian faithful through the introduction of Islamic Shari‘a law, a bitter civil war, and a record-breaking migration of people desperate to escape famine and massacre.
Often helpless to defend his people, writing poems and letters for the faithful quickly became a trademark of the archbishop’s pastoral approach as he sought to bolster Christian faith and hope. And so, in customary fashion, Cardinal Zubeir has celebrated his silver jubilee by releasing a poem in which he charts his people’s long history of struggle against Islamic militants and economic disaster.
In the 44-line poem entitled ‘Your Wonders’, a copy of which was sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Cardinal movingly recalls the surge of evacuees into Khartoum in the 1980s after the outbreak of war between the Khartoum government and rebels in the south.
The people’s suffering was so distressing to the then Archbishop Zubeir that he responded by setting up a program of schools and welfare support called “Save the Saveable” operating across the shanty towns. At its peak, “Save the Saveable” provided for up to 70,000 children – now there are at least half that number attending the schools.
The program, which receives key financial backing from ACN, has frequently incurred the wrath of Sudan’s Islamist regime, which has periodically and randomly demolished sections of the shanty towns and flattened nearby churches.
The cardinal’s silver jubilee poem comes at a time of uncertainty as many of the refugees who came to Khartoum to escape the violence in the south have begun to return to help rebuild their homes after a generation of war. The movement of refugees back to southern Sudan follows the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Khartoum government and the rebels – the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement.