Sudan´s Woes Bring Catholic and Anglican Bishops Together

Adopt Common Position to Attain Just Peace

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ROME, AUG. 30, 2001 ( Peace will not come to Sudan if Islamic law is imposed throughout the war-torn nation, the country´s Catholic and Anglican bishops warn.

The bishops met Aug. 12-17 in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the problems of dialogue with Muslims, who dominate many regions of Sudan.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized the meeting with the help of experts of the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, secretary of the Vatican organizing committee, told Vatican Radio that the first problem addressed was the war that has scourged the country since 1956, with a respite from 1972 to 1983.

Data presented at the meeting estimated that 3 million people have died from the conflict. Another 6 million Sudanese are refugees in their own country, while still others have fled abroad.

Moreover, the discovery of new oil fields in Sudan has aggravated the situation, Bishop Fitzgerald said.

«This oil is in the south, but the government of Sudan, which is of the north, controls the production of oil with foreign enterprises — Canadian, Swedish, Chinese,» he said. «Hence, oil profits give the government the possibility of strengthening itself militarily and continuing the war with stronger weapons.»

The bishops called for an immediate cease-fire by the government in Khartoum and the rebels, as a condition for lasting peace.

They also warned that the blanket imposition of Shariah, or Islamic law, would undercut peace. They asked instead that each village be able to choose the law it wishes to obey.

Lastly, the Christian leaders appeal for concrete steps toward democratic coexistence and better distribution of the country´s wealth among its citizens.

The Catholic and Anglican bishops also appealed for help in the pacification of the country. They appealed to John Paul II; Dr. George Carey, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury; U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; U.S. President George W. Bush; and other international leaders.

The task of coordination between the two confessions has been entrusted to the Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Juba.

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