BRESCIA, Italy, NOV. 25, 2001 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- Comboni missionary Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, whose Diocese of Rumbek in southern Sudan has been repeatedly attacked by the Muslim government of Khartoum, accused the regime of supporting terrorism.
Bishop Mazzolari was in Brescia to receive an award that will enable him to reconstruct the hospital in Mapourdit.
–Q: What is the relation between Osama bin Laden, the Khartoum regime, and the country´s present situation?
–Bishop Mazzolari: Bin Laden was in Sudan from 1991 to 1996. It was agreed that he should leave, following an attempt on the life of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They could have handed him over to Bill Clinton, but they didn´t.
Bin Laden had workers here producing chemical weapons. His agents are still here, administering large agricultural properties. In the wake of Sept. 11, Khartoum hastened to condemn terrorism. The U.N. lifted sanctions, as did Washington, which later decided to reimpose them for a year.
The fact is that since Sept. 11, Khartoum´s terrorist war against the peoples of southern Sudan continues and has intensified. Bombs strike schools, hospitals, churches, homes.
The forced exodus of civilians from oil areas is incessant. Among the most scourged areas in recent times are Bentiu, with 290,000 displaced people, and Raja. In my entire diocese I have between 500,000 and 800,000 displaced people.
For years, Khartoum has destabilized the region. Its Mig and Antonov planes are kept in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They take off from there to bomb southern Sudan.
Moreover, the regime supports the movements of armed struggle in Uganda, such as the Lord´s Resistance Army. Then there is the chapter of bin Laden and al-Qaida, its activities, and financial channels that involve the West.
–Q: Will Sudan be the next object of the war against terrorism? Moscow, which sells helicopters to Khartoum, and Sudanese petroleum, which continues to attract enterprises around the world, might mean that terrorism has indirect accomplices.
–Bishop Mazzolari: No matter what the case, we do not need another war. To restore peace and justice to Sudan, we need politics and diplomacy.
To act here as has been the case in Afghanistan would be a tragedy; it would simply open another front. And, as in Afghanistan, the innocent would be the ones who would pay the highest price. It would have been better to use the billions of dollars spent in technological weapons in favor of the poor. The hypocrisy of dropping bombs and humanitarian aid together!
–Q: What should be done then?
–Bishop Mazzolari: Since Sept. 11 the United States has been asking the world for help against terrorism. Well, we Catholic bishops and Protestants of the Churches also ask for help, on behalf of the people of southern Sudan.
However, [we support] a struggle against global terrorism — not just against the one that affects the United States — with the courage to go to the roots of the injustice, of poverty, of peoples´ sufferings. Thus, perhaps, from the tragedy of Sept. 11, some good might come — for all.
–Q: Let´s go back to Sudan. What do the Churches want?
–Bishop Mazzolari: Neither arms nor sanctions, but an immediate halt to the extraction of oil, which only fuels Khartoum´s arsenals. International control is necessary to safeguard respect for human rights, an end to slavery, and to violence against civilians.
A referendum is needed so that the peoples of the south can decide their future. The political initiative must be relaunched. However, in this area Washington runs the risk of committing a grave mistake: It is legitimizing Egypt and Libya in the role of mediators between Khartoum and the south to the detriment of IGAD (which associates Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea).
This will turn Sudan into the new Saudi Arabia. Our appeal is addressed to the U.N., the U.S. and Europe. We hope that at last they will listen to us.