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Letter to the Islamic Republic of Sudan's Ambassador to the United States of America

Posted on: May 26, 2004 11:06 AM
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His Excellency Khidir Haroun Ahmed
Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of the Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-2849

Dear Mr Ambassador,

We are writing to inform you that beginning on 26 May, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, working with Christians and others of good will who support human rights, will be organising protests of ongoing human rights violations and continued religious persecution in the Sudan. The protests will take place at your Embassy.

We are protesting four specific situations:

(A) Widespread ethnic cleansing in Darfur, in western Sudan, by government sponsored militia. These militias have systematically murdered, raped, and pillaged this area and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, turning them into refugees. The militias are reportedly Arab and their victims of black African extraction; almost all the victims are reportedly Muslims. We call upon the Government of Sudan to stop this vicious, racist genocide, and to allow relief organisations and human rights monitors full access to provide relief to the people and to identify those responsible for punishment. The International Crisis Group reports that as many as 350,000 people may perish in the next nine months in this area unless relief supplies are soon admitted and the situation stabilised. This is almost as many people as the United States lost in World War II.

(B) Massacres by militias in Malakal province in late March and early April, resulting in the displacement of over ten thousand people, accompanied by murder, rape, and looting by the militia personnel. Government military units did nothing to defend the people from this rampage. We call upon the Government of Sudan to restore the displaced people to their homes and to identify and punish those responsible, including the military leaders who failed to stop the slaughter.

(C) The attack Thursday, 20 May, on the headquarters of the Episcopal Church in Khartoum and the seizure of the church's buildings and property. This premeditated attack on the headquarters of one of the largest Christian denominations in Sudan makes a mockery of claims of religious freedom or tolerance for Christians. The transparent pretext used in making this attack - claiming that a deposed bishop had sold the property, which he never owned - makes clear that the Government continues its systematic and virulent persecution of the institutional church as well as individual Christians in Sudan. We call upon the government to restore the property promptly to the church and to pay compensation for the property it has destroyed.

(D) Earlier this month, the destruction of church schools in Renk, on the pretext of highway construction. These schools have been supported by churches in the Diocese of Virginia; some of our people have visited them as well, as has Bishop Gray, one of the signatories below. They were bulldozed to make way for a road that leads from nowhere to nowhere; the government has not replaced them or compensated the church for them, even though the secondary school had done an excellent job of preparing students for college examinations, judging by the results of those tests. We call upon the Government of Sudan to compensate the church and forthwith issue all necessary permits to rebuild the destroyed schools.

It is clear to us from this continued pattern of vicious persecution and human rights violations, that the Government of Sudan has no intention of changing its ways. This conduct raises grave questions about the Government's good faith in any peace agreement and suggests that no Christian is safe from persecution in your country. We call upon you, as representative of your Government, to take prompt steps to rectify these human rights abuses and to restore the church's property in Khartoum and Renk.

We intend to continue to exercise our rights to protest the continuing human rights violations by your government, and to take appropriate action through legislative and other means to urge the United States Government to take vigorous action to combat these human rights abuses and persecution in Sudan.

Very truly yours,

The Rt Revd Peter James Lee
Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

The Rt Revd David C Jones
Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Virginia

The Rt Revd Francis C Gray
Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Virginia

Further Sudan news from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA)

Spotlight turns to Sudan

By Justus Waimiri

With violence escalating in northern Uganda, church leaders from around Africa have expressed absolute shock at the atrocities in Sudan.

Led by the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Rt Revd Dr Mvume Dandala, the leaders said the current situation in the Sudan was reminiscent of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. We as the church cannot sit back as we watch others face hell on earth, said Dr Dandala soon after returning from a fact-finding mission in Sudan.

He was accompanied by among others, the Rt Revd Valentine Mokiwa, the Anglican Bishop of Dar-es-Salaam, the Rt Revd Pie Ntukamazina of Burundi and Dr Nyasanko-ni-Nku, who is President of AACC. The team said they had received reports that within the last week homes of an estimated 23,000 villagers had been razed in the Upper Nile region. They said militias were moving towards the northern part of the Upper Nile causing thousands of helpless villagers to flee their homes.

So far 150,000 people have been displaced and humanitarian agencies have left the area. Together with Dafur, the recent unfolding situation truly lends itself to a genocide in the making. It resembles Rwanda ten years ago when the world merely watched as tragic events took place, said Dr Dandala.

He said there was a great need for the world to put in place support structures that would enable the Sudan peace process underway in Naivasha, Kenya and subsequent agreements, to contain the tragic destruction. They also called for an immediate end to the human rights violations going on in Darfur.

Meanwhile, armed police forcefully gained entry into the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) provincial office in Khartoum last week and evicted staff from the building. The police were enforcing a court order that required the church to leave as the property had been sold off by a former Bishop of the church. Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) General Secretary, Canon John Kanyikwa said he was saddened by the move, which he termed as uncalled for. He urged the authorities in Sudan to respect private property.

Others who strongly criticised the eviction are the Rt Rev Francis Gray of Diocese of Virginia and US Congressman Frank Wolf. The Episcopal Church of Sudan has also written a protest letter to the state authorities in Khartoum [click here] in which they objected the eviction and the manner in which it was carried out. Elsewhere, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has organised a peaceful march in Washington DC on Wednesday to call the attention of the world to the human rights abuses in Sudan.

For further information on the Episcopal Church of the Sudan click here