THE Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng, has added to appeals for peace between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan, as the two nations this week moved closer to war (News, 5, 20 April).
Dr Deng urged the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan not to lose the goodwill that was present during the process that led to the independence of South Sudan. He appealed to the people of both countries to refuse to return to war.
“We should learn from the 55 years of war not to return to it so hastily,” Dr Deng said. “The blood of those who fought for peace should not have been poured in vain. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace at all costs. God is on the side of those who seek peace.”
Decades of civil war in Sudan, in which two million people died, ended in 2005, after a peace treaty led to independence for South Sudan (News, 1 July 2011).
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, after clashes over disputed oil fields. This week, Sudan dropped eight bombs on its neighbour. President Mayardit said that the attack represented a declaration of war, but both sides have stopped short of declaring outright war.
It is feared that these clashes and the politic rhetoric accompanying them have inflamed religious tensions in Sudan. On Saturday, 300 people attacked a Presbyterian church compound in Al-Jiraif District in Khartoum, torching parts of the premises, witnesses told IRIN, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The compound includes a home for the elderly, a medical clinic, bible school and accomodation for priests. On Sunday, Muslims joined Christians who gathered in the compound to encourage one another.
Two independent churches in the district were also attacked on Saturday, the head of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, the Revd James Par Tap, said.
The Sudan Tribune reports that on Monday Sudanese security forces shut down the offices of Sudan Aid and the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) in Nyala, Darfur. The Catholic church’s clinic, which serves those living in camps surrounding the city, was also closed.
The UN Security Council has demanded an immediate stop to the aerial bombardment of the South by Sudan. President Obama has said that there is no “military solution” to the differences between the nations. Charities have warned of a humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, as refugees from the mainly Muslim north pour into the South.