WCC News: Violence threatens South Sudan before independence

From WCC media <noreply@wcc-coe.org>
Date Fri, 10 Jun 2011 20:35:42 +0200

World Council of Churches - News


For immediate release: 10 June 2011

Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s disputed South
Kordofan State is leading to major humanitarian catastrophe with an
estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to
escape fighting, according to a number of aid agencies and witnesses in
the region.

Up to 40,000 people have fled recent fighting between Sudanese government
troops and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s oil-producing
state of South Kordofan, the United Nations has said.

“The violence and displacement of people now taking place is a potential
threat to the peaceful transition and independence of South Sudan,” WCC
general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said Friday. “We call on
those involved to end the violence immediately and for those countries
involved in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which led to the
January referendum to place pressure on both sides to resolve this

In the 9 January referendum nearly 99 percent of voters in southern Sudan
– which is predominantly Christian and animist – chose to secede from
the rest of Sudan. In doing so they created the world's newest nation
which on 9 July will formally declare and celebrate their independence.
The remainder of Sudan has a Muslim majority and leadership.

“The people of Sudan as well as the churches in Sudan have committed too
much of their lives in the past decades to work for peace to see the
region slip into violence again,” Tveit said. “The ecumenical
community worldwide calls upon the participants to now move forward into a
future of peace for all. The will and desire of the people of Sudan is for
peace and justice and we must all help to make this dream a reality.”

The United States, China, African Union, European Union and Arab League all
played a crucial role in brokering the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
and their involvement, along with civil society efforts that include the
Sudan Council of Churches and the Sudan Ecumenical Forum (SEF), led to the
peaceful referendum process.

Longstanding ecumenical engagement

Since 1994, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, which has been supported by the
WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), has played a major
role in raising awareness in the international arena about conflicts in
Sudan, with the voice of the Sudanese churches at the centre.

The Rev. Eberhard Hitzler, co-chair of the SEF, said on Friday that urgent
action is needed. “A humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale is
unfolding in South Kordofan State. We appeal to world leaders and
governments to pay attention to this situation and urgently protect

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki met on Thursday with Sudanese
president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum. Mbeki was scheduled to fly to
Juba today, Friday, to confer with southern leaders.

Already, SEF has received reports by independent witnesses claiming
violence and atrocities against civilians. Witnesses report seeing people
perceived to be SPLA sympathizers dragged out of the United Nations
Missions in Sudan (UNMIS) compound in Kadugli and executed in front of
UNMIS personnel who did not intervene.

These claims from witnesses have been backed up by evidence of churches in
the region which have contacted SEF pleading for urgent assistance and to
bring the killings to the world’s attention. According to a report from
the Reuters news agency on Friday, the south is bracing for aerial

In addition to killings, looting, burning of property and tens of thousands
of people on the run, the violence is a serious threat to stability
between northern and southern Sudan and could affect the whole region,
Hitzler says.

The Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) is also calling on the humanitarian
community and the UN mission to rescue survivors and on the international
community to prevent a return to war in Sudan. For the last five days,
survivors have locked themselves into their homes, without food or water,
for fear of being killed.

Others have fled to the mountains where they are being pursued by
helicopter gunships, the SCC says.

WCC member churches in Sudan (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=9d636ab5b29d4c11ab3d )

Ecumenical humanitarian assistance to the people in Sudan
(Link: http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=183ab696758f7c260095 )

WCC press release: South Sudan is born, ecumenical movement needed for
nation-building (Link:
) (21 February 2011)

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness 
and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of 
churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, 
Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million 
Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman 
Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, 
from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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