Sudan Fears a Return to Guns, Says Bishop

Tensions Building After Presidential Election

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EL OBEID, Sudan, MAY 26, 2010 ( The bishop of El Obeid is expressing concern that political tension in Sudan could easily spark a return to violence.

Bishop Macram Gassis told Aid to the Church in Need that currently the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army and the Sudanese military in Khartoum are arming themselves, and «it needs just one single shot to explode and we will go back to the bush where many people lived roughly during the country’s 21-year civil war.»

Political tension has been increasing since the April 26 victory of Omar al-Bashir in the country’s presidential election.

In 2009, Al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He had also been accused of genocide, though the court was unable to find sufficient evidence for this. An arrest warrant was delivered to the Sudanese government, which has not executed it.

Aid to the Church in Need noted that the local Church leaders are concerned that the new president «is still driven by a vision of an Islamist state ruled under Islamic Sharia law.»

It added that this vision «contradicts the aspirations of South Sudan, presently semi-autonomous, to separate, forming the world’s newest country,» which is due to be decided in a 2011 referendum.

The referendum is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which ended the Second Sudanese Civil War that began in 1983 and claimed 1.9 million lives.

Seeking solutions

The aid agency reported that Catholic bishops are observing signs that the country may be returning to war as tension builds surrounding the upcoming referendum.

«We are in the hands of God,» said Bishop Gassis.

He continued: «We ask God to save us from breaking down and going back to the gun — the gun will not solve the problem.

«We do not know what the solution will be, but we keep on praying; we are in his hands; we are his children.»

Aid to the Church in Need is teaming with the Catholic Radio and Television Network to draw attention to Sudan’s plight. On their Where God Weeps Web site, they are offering statistics, background information, television and radio interviews about the situation in Sudan.

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