[Sudan Ecumenical Forum] "The war in Sudan must stop now - our people have died enough," said Sudanese Bishop Paride Taban in an address to Ambassador Jesse Duarte of the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bishop Taban went on to stress the urgent need to conclude nearly 20 years of civil war in Sudan with a just and sustainable peace agreement for the entire country.
Bishop Taban spoke at the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, 24-26 February, near Pretoria in South Africa. The meeting brought together more than 60 senior representatives of the churches in the Sudan and their international church partners. The participants affirmed their support to the ongoing peace process in Sudan and acknowledged the significant progress made in the talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
"We welcome the framework agreement and in particular the incorporation of the right of self-determination for the people of South Sudan. We strongly commend the cessation of hostilities achieved in most parts of the South and urge that it be fully respected and continued while the parties strive to achieve a successful conclusion to the peace talks," states a communiqué adopted at the end of the meeting. The paper stresses the need for a peace agreement that covers the entire Sudan including the so-called contested areas of Nuba Mountains, Abyei and Funj.
The communiqué draws attention to some of the obstacles for a lasting settlement to the war. In particular, the delegates were troubled by recent violations of the cessation of hostilities otherwise in place since October 2002. Drawing on information from parishes all over Sudan, the delegates warned of accelerated mobilisation and forced recruitment by the warring parties.
The church leaders committed themselves to continue actively supporting the peace process and recommended that wider sections of Sudanese society be given opportunities to influence the peace talks and take part in the formulation of an inclusive vision for a post-conflict Sudan.
The participants also expressed an urgent need for international guarantees and monitoring mechanisms for a future peace agreement and the existing agreements on the cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas, the protection of civilians, and the Nuba Mountains Ceasefire agreement.
The Sudan Ecumenical Forum was hosted by the South African churches and the participants were inspired by the tremendous efforts dedicated to reconciliation and to the building of a new South Africa in the post-conflict situation. This experience highlighted the essential role of united ecumenical action and co-operation with other faith groups in transforming conflict-ridden societies.