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Sudanese bishops urge followers to be messengers of peace

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By Isaac Vuni

December 28, 2008 (JUBA) – The Catholic Bishops of Sudan published a pastoral letter calling on followers to be messengers of peace, but also highlighting specific circumstances that make prospects for peace in Sudan extremely fragile.

The Catholic bishops in their twenty-five page pastoral letter, under the theme "Be Messengers of Peace," hailed the government and religious leaders for signing a political peace that marked end of Sudan’s north-south civil war in 2005, even as another civil war entered its second year in Sudan’s westernmost region of Darfur. The agreement brought together Sudan’s rival National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement into a single Government of National Unity.

Despite their praise for the agreement, the bishops said that there are “many key items in the protocols which have not been honoured.”

“It is impossible to experience interior peace if we fail to pursue peace with God and peace with others. There will be no peace without justice; peace-building will have no success if it only concentrates on peace as an absence of war or on maintaining the status quo,” they said.

In the words of the bishops, the violations and threats to the treaty include the lack of National Reconciliation and healing process; non-release of the results of the census; delay in demarcation of North-South borders and the refusal of the National Congress Party to accept the report of the Abyei Boundary Commission; and the deterioration in the political situation in Darfur and Eastern Sudan.

They also criticized the national government for “lack of full care, discipline and control of the military armed forces” and “the lack of serious consideration of the aspirations of the Nuba people,” who live in the Nuba mountains of Southern Kordofan, which were part of the SPLM-held areas during the war but are now north of the boundary line.

The bishops also blamed “the deviation of resources earmarked for peace-building and development” and “inadequate repatriation process of the displaced persons from northern Sudan and Sudanese refugees from the neighbouring countries to their home areas.”

The pastoral letter was written at Yambio on November 15, and addressed to “All Christ’s Faithful and Peace-loving Sudanese.” It was widely distributed among Sudanese abroad during Christmas.

“It is our earnest hope that the implementation of the CPA will proceed promptly and without much contention,” continued the letter. The bishops observed this progress will require understanding, confidence and good faith from all Sudanese. “Besides this the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement were signed but not honoured. There has to be an end to this abrogation of peace,” they added.

They declared that the Government of Southern Sudan is not listening to voices of the public and hence it appoints public servants without proper experience and qualifications.

With sadness the Sudanese Catholic Bishops noted that great numbers of inefficient staff are engaged in corrupt practices from within government institutions.

“Lack of security and killings with impunity continue unabated in some parts of South Sudan, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile,” said the bishops.

If these issues are not addressed, the general national election scheduled for July 2009 and referendum in 2011 will not be free, fair, and transparent for promotion of a democratic system in the Sudan, cautioned the Bishops.

Most of Sudan’s Catholics reside in Southern Sudan, but the bishops also addressed the conflicts in Darfur and Eastern Sudan. In the eyes of the bishops, the lack of will to address these conflicts tests the credibility of the government and armed groups.

The letter spoke to the issue with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said in his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, “Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics.”

The letter concluded by calling to prayer and encouraging Sudanese Christians and all citizens to engage more in public life.

(ST)

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