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06 July 2012

Sudanese church leaders call for peace on 1st anniversary

Sudanese church leaders call for peace on 1st anniversary

When the citizens of South Sudan flooded to the polls in January 2011 for the long-awaited independence referendum the result was decisive, with close to 99 per cent voting to secede from Bashir's Khartoum government.

Now the world's youngest country, South Sudan, marks its inaugural anniversary on 9 July. To mark  this event, the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, His Grace Paulino Lukudu Loro and the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Most Reverend Daniel Deng Bul, have published a joint pastoral letter praising the positive developments they have seen over the past year as well as expressing their fears over the deterioration of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, inter-ethnic conflicts in South Sudan, and the three on-going civil wars still raging in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. 

The archbishops acknowledge that there has been progress made in attempts to improve South Sudan's infrastructure over the last year, but point out that considerably more needs to be done to ensure that the majority of South Sudanese have access to basic services.

"The delivery of basic services such as roads, health, education and water has not met the high expectations of our people."

They strongly appeal for several critical issues set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be resolved rapidly, otherwise they fear that the two countries are at risk of reverting back to bloody civil war in the near future. 

"Relations between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have deteriorated to unacceptable levels. We reject war as an option to resolve disputes and call upon all parties to implement a meaningful cease-fire and withdrawal of forces from the border region.

"The Abyei Protocol of the CPA, agreed by both parties, has provided the means to resolve the issue of Abyei through a referendum. Both parties to the CPA also agreed that the demarcation of the international border between the two countries should be based on the boundary of 1956. Oil is a God-given resource which should benefit both countries.

"We call for an agreement based on international norms for trans-shipment of oil, and for recognition of the damage done to the people of both nations by the current impasse. Prices are rising and there are shortages of essential commodities, including fuel, making life harder for the ordinary citizens.  This must be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The religious leaders also plea for more action to be taken to help end the continuing conflicts in the border areas, and for there to be instant humanitarian access.

"We are also concerned that there is no end in sight to Sudan's three civil wars, in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. There is no military solution; we call on all parties to enter meaningful negotiations. We also call for immediate international humanitarian access to all these areas."

As well as the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the west of the country, approximately 1,000 people have also been murdered in brutal inter-ethnic clashes in the east in Jonglei state so far according to the UN, with a further 100,000 left destitute, and the archbishops praise the churches for playing a central role in post-conflict peace building among the communities worst affected by violence.

"The nation has addressed some of its internal problems, most notably the inter-ethnic conflict in Jonglei State, in which the Church is grateful to God for having had the opportunity to play a leading role in the peace process.

"There is relative peace in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal in the face of the Lord's Resistance Army which has operated in those parts of the country, and Archbishop Deng is calling on all citizens to be vigilant and not to give room to destructive forces."

The letter ends by calling for South Sudan and Sudan to put the well-being of their people first and work towards a future of development that benefits all.

"We reiterate the dream expressed by the bishops of our two churches when they met in Yei in May 2012: a dream of two nations which are democratic and free, where people of all religions, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all languages enjoy equal human rights based on citizenship.

"We dream of two nations at peace with each other, cooperating to make the best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity and mutual respect, celebrating their shared history and forgiving any wrongs they may have done to each other. We dream of people no longer traumatised, of children who can go to school, of mothers who can attend clinics, of an end to poverty and malnutrition, and of Christians and Muslims who can attend church or mosque freely without fear. We call on the governments of both countries to work towards making that dream a reality."

Photo by Mike Goldwater / Christian Aid