Sudan Bishops Plea for Peacemakers

Note Complexity of Upcoming Referendum on Secession

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RUMBEK, Sudan, NOV. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Sudan are proposing a message of hope in the lead-up to the January referendum that might create Africa’s newest country by splitting the nation into two.

Though the prelates offer words of hope, they recognize the “uncertainty, fear and even despair that burden the people of Sudan.” They observe that preparations for the vote are “far behind schedule.”

The Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference released the statement Sunday, following their plenary assembly held last week in Rumbek.

On Jan. 9, a referendum is set to decide whether southern Sudan will separate from the north and form its own country. The vote was stipulated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the civil war that began in 1983.

It is feared, however, that the vote might not be recognized, and the bishops appeal to the international community to be ready to resolve a potential dispute.

“Whether the outcome is unity or secession,” the bishops affirmed, “Sudan will never be the same again because the people have exercised their free and democratic choice.”

They also observe: “Secession is a division of land, not a division of peoples. It need not be a breaking of relationships.”

Building a future 

The Sudanese bishops offer 13 concrete appeals to lead their nation in peace. And they make their address not only to Catholics, but to the Muslim community, all people of Sudan, and the international community, among others.

Among the appeals, the bishops recognize the plight of Sudanese youth, “who have suffered so much.” They urge young people to “refrain from being drawn in to political violence and to heed the call for peace and restraint in order to build the future they desire.”

The bishops call on the government and the media to “refrain from inflammatory statements” and to “stop the messages of hate and misinformation.”

They also urged a continuation of dialogue following the referendum. “We call upon all to be committed to developing relationships between two peoples who have shared so much history.”

As well, they make a request for prayer: “We call upon all people of good will to pray for peace now, during the referendum period, and afterwards within the richness of your own religious traditions.”

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