Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Christian leaders in Sudan warn UN of risk for war if people are left unheard

According to the Fides News Service, "The people of southern Sudan expect to fulfil their right of self-determination on the 9th of January 2011. Denial of this right, for whatever reason, represents a fundamental denial of their human dignity,” affirms a declaration sent to Fides by the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), whose delegation has visited the UN Headquarters in New York. The SCC is made up of leaders from the various Christian denominations present in Sudan, including the Catholic Church.

On January 9, there will be a referendum held regarding the independence of Southern Sudan, set out in Inclusive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Nairobi (Kenya) in 2005, which ended a twenty-year war between north and south Sudan. As the time for the referendum approaches, there is increasing tension between north and south Sudan, to the point that some have suggested postponing the vote.

“Cancellation or postponement of the referendum, or a perception that the referendum outcome does not match the will of the people, will not be understood by the people and will create a dangerous vacuum which could be filled by violence and even a return to war. The international community must be ready for a disputed referendum result,” the Christian leaders say.

The document recalls the duty of the international community, guarantors of the accord, to intervene: “Recognition of the right of self-determination must be a guiding principle in avoiding war; a return to war will represent a moral failure on the part of all those charged with implementing the CPA, including the CPA guarantors and the international community.”

As for the referendum on Abyei (the region being disputed by the north and south), the statement affirms that it “is far behind schedule and is the subject of disputes and attempts to renegotiate prior agreements.”

Lastly, the religious leaders mention their concern for the southern Sudanese living in the north. “The safety and human rights (including the right to freedom of religion) of southerners living in northern Sudan are in jeopardy before, during and after the referendum. Threats and intimidation are already taking place and there is a climate of fear. Some southerners wish to return to the south but do not have the resources to do so. Others have been in the north for generations and would find it very difficult to return to the south.” (LM) (Agenzia Fides 12/10/2010)

SCC Statement (in English)