Southern Sudan Bishops Hail Peace Pact Among Rivals

Agreement Between Rebel Groups

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NAIROBI, Kenya, FEB. 17, 2002 ( The Catholic bishops of southern Sudan publicly expressed their satisfaction over a peace declaration announced by rebel groups in their beleaguered region.

The «Declaration of Peace Between the Two Rival Parties with the Same Objectives» prompted the bishops to send a letter to the leaders of the rebel groups: the Movement for the Liberation of the Sudanese People/Popular Liberation Army of Southern Sudan, and the Sudanese Peoples´ Democratic Front.

«We, the members of Sudan´s Catholic Bishops´ Regional Conference meeting in Nairobi, have read and heard with great joy, of your historic declaration of peace between SPLM/SPLA chairman Dr. John Garang de Mabior and SPDF chairman Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon,» the episcopal letter says to the erstwhile rival leaders.

The bishops then quote John Paul II´s Message for the World Day of Peace: «No peace without justice, and no justice without forgiveness is what I wish to say to those responsible for the future of the human community, so that they will always allow themselves to be guided in grave and difficult decisions by the light of man´s true good, with a view to the common good.»

«We want to assure you that your decision to reunite has brought new hope for our people,» the Sudanese bishops added.

«Thousands lost their lives, thousands are disabled for life, thousands of children are orphaned or enslaved; thousands of our women are widowed, and thousands of our elders are dishonored,» the bishops said. «By uniting you have put an end to the policy of ´divide and rule.´ Do not give space to evil to separate you.»

The bishops who signed the letter were Paride Taban of Torit, president of the regional conference; Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei, vice president; Joseph Gasi Abangite of Tombura/Yambio; Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid; Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek; and auxiliary Johnson Akio Mutek of Torit.

Since 1983, Sudan has been the scene of a civil war that pits the rebels of the south, the majority Christians and animists, against the successive Arab-Muslim governments of the north, which enforce Islamic law.

According to humanitarian sources, the conflict, and its consequent famines, diseases and poverty, has caused 1 million to 1.5 million deaths and displaced at least 4 million people.

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