Sudanese Bishops Want Non-Muslims Exempted from Shariah

Favor Freedom of Religion Under Peace Pact

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NAIROBI, Kenya, SEPT. 4, 2002 ( Sudan’s bishops applauded a preliminary peace agreement aimed at ending the 19-year civil war, but they also insisted that Islamic law must not be forced on non-Muslims.

At their recent plenary assembly the bishops reviewed the Machakos agreement backed by religious leaders early last month.

The prelates supported the provision of the accord calling for respect of freedom of religion and public worship, reported the African Catholic Information Service.

But they expressed concern over the imposition of the Shariah, or Islamic law, and said that it must not be applied in the north of the country to non-Muslims. The Khartoum government in the north has been battling insurgents and launching attacks against civilian targets in the Christian and animist south.

The bishops said the way to promote the country’s well-being is to base a future Constitution and legislation on the dignity of the human person. They warned that national unity would be endangered if Shariah were made the source of law.

To safeguard the peace process, the bishops stressed the need for a free and open debate involving the government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army guerrillas and the people.

The bishops’ views preceded Monday’s move by the government to indefinitely suspend peace talks and prepare an offensive to win back the town of Torit captured by the SPLA.

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