Catholic Bishops of Southern Sudan Defend Right of Self-Determination

Support U.S. Role in Achieving Lasting Peace

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NAIROBI, Kenya, MAY 27, 2002 ( Catholic bishops in rebel-controlled areas in Sudan have welcomed a report by a U.S. special envoy on peace.

In a press release Wednesday, signed by Bishop Paride Taban, president of the Sudan Catholic Bishops´ Regional Conference (SCBRC), the prelates say that U.S. envoy John Danforth has made two visits to southern Sudan to see firsthand the suffering of the people in this war-torn country.

SCBRC hopes that the U.S. envoy´s involvement will lead to improved human rights in the Nuba Mountains and that the United States will play a role in bringing the long war to an end.

With the cessation of hostilities in the Nuba Mountains, the Khartoum government has deployed these forces to the Western Upper Nile around the oil fields. The government is now prohibiting flights to the Nuba Mountains.

SCBRC is happy that the Danforth report acknowledges the Declaration of Principles by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development on the right to self-determination for the southern Sudanese.

The report also highlighted religion as a major factor in Sudan. The Catholic bishops point out that before the government declared Islamic law, Sudanese of diverse backgrounds had managed to live together without much problem. Islamic law has triggered friction between Muslims and non-Muslims, the bishops say.

The Catholic Church has called for dialogue and tolerance, and organized conferences to achieve understanding between Islam and other faiths. In view of the enforcement of Islamic law, the rights of non-Muslims need to be addressed as well as their right to self-determination, the bishops say.

The bishops also voice strong support for the U.S. government´s involvement in achieving a lasting peace in Sudan.

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