NAIROBI, KENYA (April 5, 2001) -- Following a two week fact finding mission to North and South Sudan, a delegation of U.S. Bishops said today that the United States must take bold steps to bring about a just and lasting peace in war torn Sudan.
"Peace in Sudan can no longer go unattended by the international community," said Bishop John Ricard, President and Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), who led the delegation. "The judgement of history will be determined by the courage and determination of the international community to take bold steps now to help bring this cruel war to an end."
The delegation, consisting of U.S. Bishops, various advisors from the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) and the Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services, met with senior government and religious leaders in Khartoum before traveling to South Sudan to see firsthand the effects of the war there. In southern Sudan the delegation met with internally displaced Sudanese as well as officials of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
After meeting with parties representing various sides in the conflict, the Bishops outlined the principles they believe must form the bedrock of peace in Sudan, among them: the right of the Sudanese people to determine for themselves how they are to be defined as a people and governed as a society; the right of all Sudanese to have their basic human rights respected, including the right to freedom of religion; and the right of all Sudanese people to live in peace and security.
To achieve these ends, the Bishops urged the United States and the international community to negotiate an immediate United Nations-monitored cessation of hostilities in Sudan. The delegation also urged corporations involved in the exploration, extraction, production and sale of Sudanese oil to recognize the impact of those activities on the escalation of the war. In addition, they called for an immediate end to the use of aerial bombings and other tactics to terrorize and displace populations, systematic denial of religious liberty to Christians and other non-Muslims, and the abduction, enslavement and forced conscription of Sudanese civilians.
"There are grave human rights concerns that underlie the conflict in Sudan," Bishop Ricard said. "It is perfectly clear to us that the primary responsibility for the prosecution of this war lies with the government in Khartoum."
During their two-week trip, the delegation also visited Kenya, where they expressed their solidarity with the Catholic Church and the people of Kenya. They visited urban slums to assess the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS, which infects an estimated 14 percent of the Kenyan population. They also met with President Daniel Arap Moi to share their concerns for the people of Kenya and to gain a greater understanding of the role that the Kenyan government can play in promoting a more democratic system of governance and greater transparency in financial dealings.
"In the midst of this constitutional review process, we were pleased that President Moi acknowledged that the constitution exists to protect the rights of all citizens," Bishop Ricard said. "We support all efforts that promise to consider the rights of every citizen as a step towards breaking the cycle of poverty in which many Kenyans now find themselves."
Delegation members included Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, President and Chairman of the Board of CRS; Bishop Edward Braxton of Lake Charles (LA) and a member of the USCC International Policy Committee; Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Camden, Chairman of the USCC Migration Committee; Ken Hackett, Executive Director of CRS; Franciscan Father Mike Perry, Policy Advisor for African Affairs in USCC's Office of International Justice and Peace; and J. Kevin Appleby, Director of USCC's Office of Migration and Refugee Policy.
Since 1983, Sudan has been engaged in a civil war between the government in the north and rebels in the south, the Nuba Mountains and the Upper Blue Nile, struggling for the right to define themselves culturally, religiously and politically. Thus far, the war has claimed more than two million lives and displaced an estimated four million people. Kenya has undergone recent debates over the issue of constitutional review, and continues to battle against the ravages of crime, AIDS and poverty.