Churches are seen as vital to reconciliation in Sudan

02 November 2006

CHURCHES in Sudan must play a vital part in the first phase of the country's peace agreement, which comes into force this weekend. This was the conclusion of a meeting of leaders of all the main Sudanese Christian denominations, held in Kampala, Uganda, last week.

Speaking on Monday, the Archdeacon of Warwick, the Ven. Michael Paget-Wilkes, who chairs the Sudan Churches Association and attended the Kampala meeting, said that Saturday marked the start of a vital opportunity for the Churches.

The original peace deal between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum government was signed in the New Year (News, 14 January). But tomorrow marks the signing of the interim agreement, when the SPLM leader, John Garang, accompanied by thousands of his troops, will travel to Khartoum.

Mr Garang will be Vice-president of the new United Government of Sudan, based in Khartoum, and President of the newly established Southern Sudan government. After six years, the south will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan. The new agreement ends 21 years of fighting in the south of the country, between the predominantly Christian SPLM and the government-backed Muslim forces from the north. An estimated two million people have died in the conflict.

"So much is being done already by the Churches," said Archdeacon Paget-Wilkes, "and this needs to be built on: the peace and justice workshops, and the vital work in reconciliation and trauma." He believed that reconciliation was one of the Churches' main tasks, as it was a concept that did not figure strongly in Islam.

Speaking of Darfur, he said: "The peace agreement covers this area, but the jury is still out as to whether the Khartoum government will change its policies in that area." Of the peace deal as a whole, he said: "The only difficulty is how much the government will honour this new treaty."

Asylum refused. The Home Office this week defended its policy of returning some asylum-seekers to Darfur. Its statement read: "There are individuals who are able to demonstrate a need for international protection. We do not, however, consider that each and every Sudanese national from Darfur who applies for asylum is in need of international protection."

The charity Aegis Trust has criticised what it calls this "damning Home Office policy".

Darfur plea
The campaigning group Waging Peace has distributed a new report, Darfur: The genocide continues, to MPs, MEPs, and members of the House of Lords. It calls on them to demand more action from the Government and the international community.

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