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Archbishop backs a secular South Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 p 7. August 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Islam.
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Archbishop Daniel Deng

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan has called upon Muslim leaders in South Sudan to set aside sectarian concerns and work towards building a free and tolerant nation.

Speaking at a dinner held by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan at the State House in Juba on 20 August for Muslim leaders in Africa’s newest nation, Archbishop Daniel Deng called upon Christians and Muslims to work together for the common good.

Fighting between the Arab Muslim north and the African Christian/animist south has been constant since Sudan gained its independence in 1956. Two civil wars left millions dead and displaced in the south, but culminated in a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which led to the Republic of South Sudan’s independence on 9 July, 2011.

A major source of dissension between North and South during the civil war had been the imposition of Sharia law upon the south by the Khartoum government. The new republic has adopted a secular constitution and civil code, removing Islam from its court system.

In his keynote address, Archbishop Deng called upon President Kiir to create a national religious council which would facilitate dialogue and foster cooperation between the faiths. Interfaith dialogue would also serve to stabilise the new nation, removing religious passions from the political sphere.

President Kiir called for the South Sudanese Muslim community to organize themselves in the wake of the break with Khartoum, and to build relations with the Christian majority.

“Here in South Sudan there is no difference between Christians and Muslims. In our new nation we need unity and development; we have not left you (Muslims) out,” President Kiir said, according to an extract of his speech printed in the Sudan Times.

“Discrimination, marginalisation and many things happened during the war, but it will not happen again in the new South Sudan, whether you are red, white or black, this is our country, you cannot discriminate against me because of my colour. Any South Sudanese has the right to stay here,” the President said.

He also gave his “blessings for the establishment of the South Sudan Religion Council” as proposed by Archbishop Deng, saying he welcomed such a move.

The President also disputed a claim made by the Akhir Lahza newspaper in Khartoum that had been reprinted across the region that claimed that a son by his fourth wife, John Salva Kiir, had converted to Islam on Independence Day. President Kiir noted this was untrue as he has had neither a fourth wife nor a son called John.

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