· Vatican City ·

Homily by His Grace Justin Welby

We cannot, we will not, be separated

10 February 2023

The following is the English text of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s reflection during the Ecumenical Prayer Service at Juba’s John Garang Mausoleum on Saturday evening, 4 February.

The only way the world will know Jesus came from the Father is when his followers are one, for God is one.

Our being one is how the world will know that Jesus is Lord, that God reigns over all powers and authorities, that the glory of the Father is believed and more people come to know His love.

We see this in Acts 2 (just read for us by Martha Adut Kuol). Those who choose to follow Christ enter into a new community, where there are no divisions or hierarchies. They enter into new relationships and a whole new way of living. ‘All the believers were together’. More than that, they lived with abundant generosity and care for one another and for the world around. They sold their own possessions to give to those in need. They broke bread together. They lived the gospel and preached the gospel. Corruption was excluded. Violence was non-existent.

These new followers lived Jesus’ words: ‘All I have is yours, and all you have is mine’. When we recognise that everything is God’s, we are no longer fearful of losing it, because we know that God is a God of abundance, not lack, of greatness, not scarcity. We no longer cling to things when we know in our souls that everything belongs to God.

In a world of famine and thirst, faith in God’s abundance is hard. But when we are one, we value each other like we value the limbs on our own bodies.

We value young people. [Addressing young people] You are the majority of this nation. You are not just the future, you are our present. If we value you, we will listen to your hopes for peace and opportunity and allow those hopes to shape our nations and churches.

You will not be deceived into war. You will not be forced to kill. You will disagree with others, but still love them. You will set a pattern of obedient love to God. You will value and honour women, never raping, never violent, never cruel, never using them as if they were there to satisfy desire.

When we are one, we value and honour women. Women of South Sudan, I know that on top of the grief of conflict and the responsibility to provide for your families, many of you live with the trauma of sexual violence and the daily fear of mistreatment in your own homes. Yet you are also incredible women of strength. My wife Caroline has worked with many of you and has heard the stories of you taking food, clothing and training to those who should be considered your enemies, even risking your lives to do so.

May God inspire us with your example and enable us to offer you the care and value Jesus gave to women all around him.

This ‘being one’ is something we must all practise, and yet it is particularly the responsibility of leaders. Leaders have the power to act on what others say; they can make the choice to listen to others or not; they can model valuing those who are different from them, or they can stoke divisions.

Being a Christian draws us all into the fellowship of believers. It does not matter that we are from different countries, different denominations, different tribes. My dear brothers, Pope Francis, Moderator Iain and I are here as part of your family, your fellowship, to be with you and share with you in your suffering. We have travelled on this Pilgrimage of Peace in a way that has not been done before ever. We cannot, we will not, be separated. Nothing on Earth can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from one another who share in that love. The blood of Christ unites us, regardless of our differences. It is sufficient alone for our salvation. We need no other sacrifices. My sister and brother are never, never, never my enemies.

There is a place and a role for you in the family of believers, and it is to do what you can to share the love you have been given. Even if it is just a small thing. Listen to Jesus today. Love someone who is different from you today. Embrace them, share food, protect them.

We will pray for you, our dear brothers and sisters. You are not forgotten. And may God protect you, may he sanctify you and may you know His peace. And may we, together, worship the God who became human and shared in our suffering, so we might become one and share in His glory.