During much of the last 18 years, a devastating war has been raging in Sudan. It has cost the lives of two million people and forced more than four million people from their homes and ancestral lands. The war is marked by a systematic campaign of terror by the government in Khartoum against its own people, especially Christians and practitioners of African traditional religions. The denial of religious freedom in the North, the systematic persecution of Christians, and the destruction of African cultural identity lie at the heart of the conflict. Religion and culture are manipulated by a government that thirsts for power and money. While the principal responsibility lies with the Khartoum government, there are credible reports of human rights abuses in the South, notably by the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the main rebel group in southern Sudan.
For the more than thirty million Sudanese living in the largest country in Africa, the war continues to disrupt their lives, forcing them to live in a permanent state of insecurity and fear. The bombings of hospitals, schools, churches, homes and fields by the government in Khartoum continues to threaten the lives of innocent civilians in the south and other contested areas, including the Nuba Mountains. The government also denies humanitarian access to international donor agencies that seek to provide food, medicines and other items vital to the survival of those most vulnerable.
The bishops of Sudan fully support the Declaration of Principles that was signed by the two major parties to the conflict. The Declaration of Principles provide a framework for a comprehensive cease-fire, conditions for the creation of an interim government, an equitable distribution of economic resources, and the holding of a referendum in the South to allow the people to decide for themselves their political future. Support by the U.S. government and the international community for peace initiatives based on these fundamental principles is essential if there is to be a just and lasting peace. It is also critical that all parties to the conflict, the regional neighbors of Sudan and the international community, cooperate as broadly as possible in this process.
USCC Recent Trip to Sudan
A delegation of bishops from the USCC recently visited Khartoum and southern Sudan. They witnessed, first hand, the suffering of the Sudanese people, especially the more than 2 million internally displaced living in and around Khartoum in a permanent situation of insecurity, harassment, religious and social isolation and economic exclusion. War in the South and other contested areas has caused tremendous human suffering. Aerial bombardments of civilian targets by the government in Khartoum continues. Thousands of people are driven from their homes and lands in oil-rich areas.
- The Sudanese government must stop bombings of civilian targets in the south and other contested areas.
- The Sudanese government and rebel groups must halt the abduction and enslavement of the Sudanese from oil-rich areas and northern Bahr Al-Ghazal region, as well as other human rights violations.
- The Sudanese government, the international community and multinational oil companies must take steps to ensure that revenues generated by the development of oil resources are not used to fuel the war.
- The Sudanese government must respect religious freedom and a the many African cultures represented by the Sudanese peoples and stop its program of forced Islamization and Arabization.
We urge that all Catholics and others of good will write to the President of the United States and the Secretary of State with two specific requests:
- That the new U.S. administration raise the level of involvement of the President of the United States and the Secretary of State in the matter of Sudan, and that it press our allies in Europe and elsewhere to bring increased diplomatic pressure upon the Government of Sudan to work for a just resolution to the war.
- That the President name a high-level Special Envoy to Sudan who will be given a clear mandate and have direct access to the President and the Secretary of Sudan.