United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
January 13, 2005
After more than 21 years of civil war, the Government in Khartoum and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed a comprehensive peace agreement on January 9, 2005. We hope this action brings an end to Africas longest running war and ushers in a new era of hope. This historic agreement holds the promise that the Sudanese people can find ways to walk the path of peace and reconciliation. The work of peace is clearly not finished in Sudan, but this initiative shows that an effective and sustained commitment on the part of the U.S. government, the member states of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the international community to work together can make a difference.
For the past several years, as the people of Sudan have suffered and died, the Catholic bishops of the United States have repeatedly called for decisive action by the international community to save human lives and restore security. On behalf of the bishops conference, I led a number of delegations to northern and southern Sudan and to Darfur to express our solidarity with the suffering people and to urge the Government in Khartoum and all parties to replace violence with dialogue. Catholic Relief Services, our Conferences relief and development agency, has played an instrumental role in promoting peace, providing emergency assistance and raising the awareness of this crisis in Sudan. We will continue to support the people of Sudan during the fragile process of carrying out the agreement.
If these steps toward peace are to be sustained and extended throughout Sudan, the Government in Khartoum and the SPLM must take immediate steps toward the full implementation of the protocols. The international community must hold the parties to this agreement accountable. Just as importantly, all parties must act decisively to end the violence and atrocities being committed against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Darfur. There is no lasting peace in Sudan while the crisis in Darfur continues. We renew our calls for the United States, the international community, the United Nations and the African Union to secure a ceasefire in Darfur, provide protection to innocent civilians and pressure all parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire agreements they have signed, maintain open corridors for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and seek a negotiated settlement.
The United States and the international community must provide substantial financial and political support as the parties form a new government, create new security structures, assist people returning to their communities and undertake the reconstruction of the country and its civil society. Additionally, the United Nations must provide a significant peacekeeping force that will work collaboratively with the military forces of both north and south, and with the forces of the African Union in Darfur. The international community must provide adequate funding and logistical support so that the peacekeeping objectives of the United Nations and the African Union might be achieved.
We offer our prayers for the people of Sudan and hope that this agreement can lead to peace. We pray to God, and plead with those who must act, that the people of Darfur will soon enjoy the day when peace and security will be extended to them.