Sudan’s churches promote peace as date for independence nears

NAIROBI, Kenya (ENI) As independence for South Sudan approaches
on July 9, churches there are coordinating efforts to bring lasting peace to
a region exhausted by a long civil war.

“The church has recommitted herself to re-engage in mediating for a
peaceful resolution of the conflicts,” the Rev. Ramadan Chan, general
secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, told ENInews on May 16 from
Khartoum. The council represents Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox

Despite a 2005 peace agreement, renegade militia groups led by dissent
military figures continue to fight with the South Sudan army. The United
Nations has reported that there are seven militia groups operating in the
region where the accord ended a 21-year civil war in which an estimated 2 million
people died and 4 million were displaced.

On Jan. 9, the population of South Sudan voted for independence. The
United Nations now estimates 800 people have so far died there this year.

Chan said the council will send a delegation, including heads of churches
and church leaders, to conflict zones. The leaders will initiate dialogue
between the government and the militia groups so that conflicts can be
peacefully resolved, Chan said.

“The mediating team of seven. is being set up (this week),” he said. “They will begin
(peace work) in Malakal, (the capital town of Upper Nile State) because it is closer to
where all the conflicts are. It is in the middle between Unity and Jonglei States where
the other conflicts are being staged.”

At the end of the council’s 18th General Assembly held May 9-11 in Juba,
church leaders urged the armed groups to come to the negotiating table. “The
way of peace is always the best,” said the group’s statement, which also urged the
South Sudan government to protect the civilian population.

Still, the council which unites churches in both North and South Sudan,
resolved to remain united and retain its name and headquarters in Khartoum for
a transitional period of two years after independence. “With the prospects
of two nations emerging from the old Sudan, we affirm our unity as the
Church of Jesus Christ, both in the North and in the South. Being one body
of Christ, we are one people and we are indivisible,” leaders said.

The council is also seeking guarantees for freedom of movement, freedom of
worship, freedom of expression, freedom of work and freedom of residence in
the two states after the independence.