Archbishop of Canterbury declares new Anglican province in Sudan
The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared a new Anglican province in Sudan six years after the predominately Christian south split from the Muslim majority north.
Justin Welby hailed Sunday's ceremony in Khartoum a 'new beginning' for Christians in Sudan who have been severely repressed, with dozens of churches destroyed and permission for new buildings refused.
It means Sudan becomes the 39th Anglican province and joins the 85 million-strong global Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Church in the area had previously been run from the mainly Christian South Sudan since the 2011 split following a civil war that left more than 2 million people dead.
But the ceremony in the north's capital Khartoum gives the region autonomy, with Ezekiel Kondo Kumir Kuku installed as the country's first archbishop and primate.
Kuku was welcomed with cheers by American, European and African diplomats as well as hundreds of worshippers at the service in All Saints Cathedral.
'We welcome the new primate with jubilation,' said Welby.
'It is a responsibility for Christians to make this province work, and for those outside (Sudan) to support, to pray and to love this province,' he said.
'The Church must learn to be sustainable financially, to develop the skills of its people, and to bless this country as the Christians here already do.
He told BBC's Today programme the 'centre of growth' for the Anglican Church as well as for Catholics, Lutherans and other denominations has been in Africa, Asia and South East Asia.
But despite the rise in numbers, Christians have suffered persecution particularly in the Muslim majority Sudan and Welby said he raised the issue 'strongly' in a meeting with the country's President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday.
'In England, the Church of England often seeks to protect Muslims when they are under pressure,' he told AFP, suggesting he expected the same in Sudan when it came to protecting Christians.
A recent letter from the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) outlines the 'hard conditions' Christians leaders have faced in recent years, including the demolition of churches, confiscation of property, government failure to allocate land for construction of any new churches, and travel restrictions on senior figures.
Dozens of buildings have been destroyed or are set to be taken down, including Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostal churches, with the government claiming they violate designated purposes for these plots of land.
But Welby said he had been impressed with how, at grassroots level, Christian and Muslim leaders were working together for peace.
'That is particularly encouraging,' he told the BBC.