In Sudan, Fears of a "Slow-Motion Rwanda"

Papal Envoy Calls for Aid to People of Darfur

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ROME, JULY 23, 2004 ( John Paul II’s special envoy to Sudan appealed to Catholics worldwide for prayers and material support to assist the peoples of Darfur.

In an interview with the television agency «Rome Reports,» Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum,» analyzed the situation in the African country and the response that the Church and the world should give.

The prelate attributed the roots of the conflict to the Khartoum government’s neglect of Darfur.

«People there felt themselves not treated in a good way,» he said from Sudan. «So there was a group of rebels that were making war in this country against the government, against the state … on the basis, I think, of ethnic feelings.»

The government had to bring order back to the region, and did so using «tribes and other militia groups to attack the population of Darfur,» the archbishop said.

«In Darfur now, many, many people have been killed,» he said. They say «about 10,000. … All the others are fleeing.»

Some «10 million people are on the move to flee from the militia groups,» Archbishop Cordes said.

There is talk of a «slow-motion Rwanda,» that the genocide in Rwanda is now being repeated in Darfur, he added.

The envoy said he was sent by the Pope to speak to the people and bishops in the area, and to offer consolation and call more attention to the tragedy.

«The Vatican is not a political force but it is a moral authority, and this may create a greater sensitivity to the problem existing there,» Archbishop Cordes said.

Moreover, «the Church always tries to help concretely, with material means,» he added. An appeal has been made for $17 million for food, shelter, water and medicine, he continued.

Currently, the Khartoum government is not making access to Darfur easy. However, the archbishop believes that the government is aware of the needs of the people and hopes that «they will open the doors so that» material assistance will get through.

Archbishop Cordes noted that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the necessity to do something at the level of the United Nations.

Referring to the responsibility of Catholics, Archbishop Cordes added, «I think the first reaction of faithful should be to ask the Lord to help these people and stay with them.»

«There will be a lot of possibilities to give money and foster … means for helping,» he said. In particular, he mentioned groups such as U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, Caritas and parishes.

Archbishop Cordes travels around the world to areas scourged by war or natural disasters. Explaining the meaning of his trip to Sudan, he said that the people «know the Pope, they know the man in white in Rome, even if they are not Catholics. So I think my visit gives them an emotional input for the future, for their hopes.»

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