An Appeal by the Bishops of the
Catholic and Episcopal Churches of the Sudan
17 August 2001
We, the Bishops of the Catholic and Episcopal Churches of the Sudan, gathered in Nairobi for a seminar, Pastoral Leadership and United Action in a Crisis Situation, from 12-17 August 2001, moved by our Christian Faith and concerned by the immense suffering of all the Peoples of Sudan because of the current civil war, appeal for an immediate end of the hostilities and the establishment of a just and durable peace in the Sudan.
We address our appeal to the Government of Sudan, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), other warring parties, all Peoples of Sudan of every tribe and religion, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and other peacemakers including the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF), the United Nations, the African Union and international partners.
We also address our appeal to His Holiness Pope John Paul II and The Most Reverend and The Right Honorable Dr. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to religious leaders around the world.
State of suffering
We are deeply concerned with the appalling human suffering in both the North and South of the country. Nearly three million people have died because of the war. Over six million have been internally displaced and millions more having fled the country. The economic situation has deteriorated to the extent that over 95% of the population is living below the poverty line. In some areas, populations are being deliberately denied critically needed basic humanitarian assistance.
The war has adversely affected particularly the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly. In order to sustain the war efforts, the warring parties conscript by force children of school age into military service, thus exposing them to grave harm, depriving them of any chance of education and jeopardizing their futures. Women and children are harassed and abused and the elderly are robbed of normal traditional care. Ordinary and traditional family life has collapsed, and cultural traditions have broken down.
Large sections of the population have become dependent for their survival on humanitarian assistance. This assistance, though desperately needed, is however not an effective long-term solution to the crisis.
Given these and other heinous experiences of human suffering, we appeal for an immediate end of the war. A negotiated settlement, rather than military means is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace.
Peace based on justice
Stopping the war is essential, but not sufficient for the establishment of a just and lasting peace. The root causes of the conflict must also be addressed, so that all Sudanese can enjoy their full rights in dignity. This could be achieved by addressing the following:
- Affirmation of diversity in the national identity that ensures the equal treatment of all cultural, racial, and religious groups in the public media and the educational and legal systems in order to promote peaceful coexistence.
- Power sharing by a participatory system of governance that ensures the full rights and participation of all people. Such a system should protect the states' exclusive rights over their territories and provide for the sharing of agreed upon powers at the national level. This balance of powers must be configured to avoid the domination by any one group over another and ensure the full rights of all.
- Wealth sharing through an agreed upon formula between the states and national government to ensure balanced and equitable development.
Programme for Peace
Addressing the above three major concerns requires a concrete programme of action that includes the following:
- Affirmation of principles. We affirm the Declaration of Principles of the IGAD peace process, particularly in regards to the relationship between state and religion, the principle of self-determination, and the comprehensive cease-fire.
- Relationship between state and religion: The unity of the country and peace with justice cannot be achieved under Sharia Law in a country with a diversity of cultures and religions. Instead we call for religious freedom for all religious groups and the separation of religion and state.
- Self-determination: In the event of disagreement with the above position, we call for self-determination for all marginalized peoples.
- Comprehensive cease-fire: Upon the achievement of a negotiated settlement, a comprehensive cease-fire should be declared and internationally monitored.
- Advocacy for justice and peace. We call for:
- Respect for human rights for all citizens
- Peace building, reconciliation and forgiveness among the diverse cultural groups of the nation, including North-South, South-South and North-North initiatives
- The cooperation of neighbouring countries, international organizations, and IGAD Partners Forum countries and all people of good will.
- The constructive engagement of all national stakeholders, including civil society groups and religious communities in particular.
- Affirmation of the on-going people-to-people reconciliation and peace process in the South and urge all parties to the conflict to engage and support seriously this process and any similar processes in the North. These grassroots efforts should be linked to the higher national political level.
- Commitment to fostering genuine Christian-Muslim dialogue particularly at the local community level.
- Affirmation and support of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and its ongoing initiatives for peace.
- Suspension of oil extraction until peace is achieved. Its continuation fuels the war, uproots civilian populations, and reinforces the existing imbalance in wealth sharing.
As believers in the one Creator, and sharing in a single humanity, we believe and hope that God will grant the Peoples of Sudan peace if we are willing to pray sincerely, to reconcile and bear one another's burdens.