Sudan — a Blood Bath Ignored

Interview With Exiled Bishop Macram Max Gassi of El Obeid

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ROME, MAY 11, 2003 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- The war in Iraq has been on television screens for months. «Who remembers the one in Sudan?» asks Bishop Macram Max Gassi.

The 65-year-old pastor-in-exile of El Obeid, in the Nubian Mountains, said in an interview during a visit to Italy: «Who talks about the more than 2 million dead in Sudan in 14 years, and of the systematic violation of human rights?»

The Sudanese crisis became especially acute in 1983, when the Shariah, or Islamic law, was imposed, and forced-Islamization initiated in 1989 among the peoples of the south, most of whom are Christians or animists.

Q: What is the reason for this silence?

Bishop Gassi: There are several reasons. The first is the astuteness of the Khartoum regime. When journalists arrive, they show them what they want. They do not let them enter the areas where there is real suffering.

Moreover, the Christian world does not have the courage to report that Muslim fundamentalists are persecuting Christians. This does not happen in other situations.

Q: Which ones?

Bishop Gassi: We Christians have raised our voice to defend the Kurds, the Kosovars. But we haven’t done so with Sudan. There has been no massive movement to come and see what is happening.

Very few people have come to the Nubian Mountains. Almost no one goes to visit that Church, present with its priests and seminarians. My door is open to any delegation of the media: Come to see the situation!

It is true that things have improved somewhat since the cease-fire signed in Geneva in January 2002. There is more openness; less fear of being bombed or attacked by land. But it took five years of disregarded appeals to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Q: Perhaps the West does not talk about Sudan because its conscience is stained by the oil question?

Bishop Gassi: The oil problem came later. The Canadians and the Americans also came in, but they left it as they realized that it was «dirty» oil. In fact, the regime of the north arms itself with money that comes from the south’s oil.

Q: Because of the imposed exile, you spend long periods of time in the United States and Europe. Doesn’t this help you to make known the situation in your country? Are we facing a situation of media racism?

Bishop Gassi: My base is in Nairobi, but I am like a globetrotter. I have formed, especially in the United States, groups of lawyers specialized in human rights to continue my work, while I am traveling.

There is indifference. The Scripture says: Because you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. I think that the media only seeks sensationalism. How many people have died in Sudan? Two and a half million since 1989. And no one says anything?

Five million Sudanese have sought refuge abroad. We have become a burden to neighboring countries: Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and also to England. And no one says anything?

Q: Does the West forget about this part of humanity that suffers so much?

Bishop Gassi: As I was saying, I visit Western countries where it is common to consider oneself a Christian. It takes much courage to share the way of these brothers who are living their Via Crucis, and become Cyreneans. We only want peace and justice. Today there is much talk of peace, but not of the one borne of justice.

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