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
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
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
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
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
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".