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Sudan border conflict causes humanitarian crisis

26 October 2012

by a staff reporter

THE disputed border area of Abyei, in Sudan, has been "totally des­troyed" in the continuing conflict between the Republic and its neighbour, South Sudan, the Arch­bishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has said.

In a debate on the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Sudan in the House of Lords, Dr Sentamu reported on visit to Abyei by a church delegation, led by the Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng.

He told peers: "[The delegation] was shocked by what it saw. The town is deserted and has been completely destroyed. The Catholic church, Catholic and Episcopal Church of Sudan schools, boreholes, adminis­trative offices, government houses, the power station, shops, and even the latrines have all been destroyed. There appear to be no humanitarian agencies working there."

The mosque appears to be one of the few buildings left standing in Abyei.

Hundreds of thousands of people in border areas such as South Kordofan have been displaced, and many have fled into the newly independent South Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia.

A partial peace agreement was signed last month, with an agreement to resume oil exports, but disputed border areas were not addressed ( News, 12 October).

A referendum had been due to take place in Abyei to decide whether to join the newly independent South or remain within Sudan, but disputes over who was eligible to vote pre­vented it from going ahead.

Dr Sentamu said that there could be no military solution to the conflict between the two nations, and he called on the Government to work with the government of Sudan to get it to accept that its future was "multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious".

He said that the minority Chris­tian presence in Sudan - which is largely Muslim - must be "re­spected". There has been a series of attacks on churches in the region.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, also spoke in the Lords debate, saying that the part played by churches in delivering aid in Sudan needed to be recognised. While the Government did under­stand the part played by churches in delivering aid, agencies such as the UN did not, he said.

Baroness Warsi, for the Govern­ment, said: "We remain committed to working in partnership with the Church on these issues. It has a huge amount of experience, knowledge, and reach, and we regularly meet representatives of the Church when they are in the UK."

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, this week praised the part played by the Church in working for peace in Sudan in a letter to Dr Deng and the RC Archbishop of Juba, the Most Revd Paulino Lukudu Loro. They said that they had been "heartened by [their] joint efforts".

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