During much of the last 17 years, a devastating war has been raging in the 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 Christians and practitioners of African traditional religions. Conversion to Islam, and the destruction of African culture lies at the heart of the conflict. So, too, does the thirst for power and money. There have been accusations of human rights abuses also 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 of the country. 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.
One of the most important peace initiatives that is currently being pursued is the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace Process. The bishops of the Sudan fully support this initiative and call on the international community to continue to provide the necessary financial and diplomatic support to ensure its success.
Current efforts by the U.S. government to isolate the government of Sudan, diplomatically and economically, are reflected in the recently re-introduced Sudan Peace Act (S. 180). Senators Brownback, Frist, Feingold and others are pressing for a "multilaterizing of diplomatic and economic tools" to force the hand of the Sudanese government to engage in a "good faith peace process." S180 recognizes certain weaknesses of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and calls for a "single, internationally sanctioned peace process" based on the 1994 Declaration of Principles.
"Sudan's Cry for Peace", the U.S. Catholic Bishops' most recent statement on Sudan issued in November 2000, is one of the many ways in which the bishops are voicing their strong concern for the plight of the Sudanese people. The USCC:
- Condemns aerial bombings of civilian targets in the south by the Sudanese government
- Condemns the government of Sudan for its involvement in slavery
- Condemns the violation of human rights by all parties involved in the conflict, especially the government of the Sudan
- Condemns the expropriation of oil revenues and their use by the Sudanese government against its own people
- Condemns the government of the Sudan for its programs of forced Islamization and Arabization, which has involved much human suffering and the religious persecution of Christians and practioners of African traditional religions
- Urges full support, economically and politically, for IGAD and other peace initiatives based on the Declaration of Principles.
- Urges greater financial support for the People-to-People peace processes in southern Sudan
- The new administration should be encouraged to raise the level of involvement of the President and the Secretary of State in the matter of Sudan, and to continue to press U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere to bring pressure upon the Government of Sudan.
- Sudan needs to be seen as a humanitarian disaster and a brutal example of repression, not just as a threat to the United States.
- The Congress should be urged to provide additional funding for the peace initiatives based on the Declaration of Principles and the NSCC People-to-People peace initiatives in southern Sudan.