Foreign Office reports no govt persecution of Christians in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 19, 2012Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, House of Lords.
Tags: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Ezekiel Kondo, Lord Howell, Omar al-Bashir, Peter Price, Rowan Williams
The Foreign Office reports there is no evidence of an anti-Christian pogrom being waged by the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.
In a written statement given in response to a question from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell on 23 May 2012 said “We have no evidence that there is a state orchestrated campaign against Christians. However, recent rhetoric by government leaders on the north-south conflict has led to tension between communities and fear of attacks against South Sudanese in Sudan, many of whom are Christians.”
The government’s view of the conditions in Sudan is at odds with reports from Sudanese Christians and NGOs. Southern Christians living in the North were stripped of their Sudanese citizenship and are being expelled to the South, forcing hundreds of thousands into refugee settlement. In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”
Last year Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum reported that in his home province, South Kordifan, now on the Khartoum government’s side of the border between North and South, the Islamist government was engaged in the religious cleansing of the province, driving Christian Nuba across the border and burning the region’s principle town of Abyei.
The violence prompted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. “Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down,” Dr. Williams reported, adding that “many brutal killings are being reported.”
However in his statement to Parliament last month, the minister said the British government was “very concerned by a recent attack on a church in Khartoum, although there was no evidence of state involvement. We welcome the announcement from the Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments of an investigation into the incident and urge them to ensure this enquiry is thorough, independent and timely. We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect all of their civilians, including those in religious groups.”
In response to a second question from Bishop Peter Prince concerning the disputed border provinces, Lord Howell said the British government had pressed both sides to come to the negotiating table.
“We are also encouraging the Government in Sudan to put in place a political process of constitutional reform that will address the needs and views of all its people, including those in the conflict affected states of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei,” Lord Howell said.
In May 2011, the Sudanese army occupied Abyei following a three-day clash with South Sudanese troops. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that a dispute over who could vote in the independence referendum in the state led to the clashes. Sudan had argued that the Miseriya, a nomadic northern tribe that roam into Abyei in order to feed and water their livestock, should be included in the referendum, while South Sudan maintained that only the Ngok Dinka people who reside in Abyei should participate.
After the Sudanese Army entered the province, approximately 130,000 Ngok Dinka residents were displaced to the south and forced to seek assistance from aid agencies. Last week Sudan agreed to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and pulled its troops out of Abyei.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said his organization welcomed the troop withdrawal. But the resumption of peace talks “must not be allowed to obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility for the creation of humanitarian crises not only in Abyei, but also in Darfur and most recently, in the Nuba Mountains, where access is being denied to a civilian population that is deliberately targeted by the military and faces imminent starvation.”
Lord Howell told Parliament the UK has worked hard to “ensure United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046, which supports the roadmap, dealt with Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State under a Chapter VII mandate.”
“We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to both states. I welcomed the news that South Sudan have withdrawn their remaining security forces from Abyei on 11 May, and we now urge the Sudanese security forces to do the same,” the minister said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.