An Anglican bishop from Southern Sudan who survived civil war to champion the cause of education has been honoured in Durham.
Bishop Francis Loyo, the second most senior bishop in the Episcopal church of Sudan, received the honour for his work with Durham-based Edith Jackson Trust, which raised money to build a school in his home town of Rokon. During Sudan’s civil war Bishop Loyo was imprisoned, tortured and separated from his family.
The trust raised more than £120,000 and opened its first school in Rokon, Southern Sudan, in 2011. The playground is still littered with bullet cartridges, and, as recently as spring 2013, two children were killed in the bush nearby by a landmine. However, despite the difficulties and physical danger, 90 children squeeze into the two classrooms every day.
Bishop Francis said, ‘The peace was signed when I was in Durham in 2004/5. When the peace was signed, we felt it was important for us to start beginning reconstruction, and one of the priorities was the school. Durham came up with support through the Edith Jackson Trust. You can see the hand of God at work here, touching the hearts of many people’.
Rev. Canon Dr Alan Bartlett, of St Mary’s Sherburn and St Cuthbert’s Shadforth, said, ‘When a nation spends 50 years ripping itself apart in a bloody civil war, the children learn just three things: how to hide, how to hate, how to kill. The Edith Jackson Trust was set up to enable education in the world’s newest nation of Southern Sudan and has worked hard to challenge those lessons’.
He added: ‘Bishop Francis is a visionary man who dreams of free, educated, confident people, turning oil rich Southern Sudan into a peaceful prosperous society. He has achieved a lot, with very little, and his visit to Durham is an inspiration to the trust and provided an opportunity to hear a little more about this humble, yet remarkable man’.