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Foreign Office reports no govt persecution of Christians in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, House of Lords.
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Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum and Archbishop 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.

Sudan Synod plea to stop the fighting: The Church of England Newspaper, December 11, 2011, p 6. December 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Persecution.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The General Synod of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) has called for an end to the government campaign of terror waged against civilians.

Meeting at All Saints Cathedral in Juba from 13-16 November 2011, the ECS Ninth General Synod denounced the war along the border between north and south Sudan as well as the guerrilla war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony in the country’s Western Equatoria State along the border with Uganda, the Congo and the Central African Republic.

“We strongly condemn the persistent aerial bombardment of civilian territories, summary executions of innocents, and combat in civilian areas” in the border regions, the 16 November statement said.

“The bombs that fall are indiscriminate; they kill and maim young and old, man and woman, Christian and Muslim. In short, innocent civilians have become a target and their suffering has become political currency” in the hands of the government of President Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed National Congress Party in Khartoum.

The ECS “categorically” denounced these “crimes against humanity” and called for the governments in Juba and Khartoum to “return to the negotiating table and discuss national issues in a way amenable to peace and stability. We urge both governments to resolve any differences peacefully and not to resort to war and killing of the innocent civilians who yearn for peace.”

The Church also called attention to the ravages of the LRA. Driven from their bases in Uganda, the LRA has retreated into the bush terrorizing villagers in the Sudan. The “cancer of Western Equatoria State, namely the Lord’s Resistance Army, persists and requires immediate and committed international mediation for the most equitable solution for peace.”

The Church called for “peaceful methods of engagement” to be used to end the fighting – which has seen the deployment of 100 US soldiers to Uganda to coordinate operations against the rebels.

While the Sudan had been divided into two countries — north and south – the ECS would remain one and continue to work for peace, the statement said.

“In the area of advocacy for peace and reconciliation, the ECS will remain committed to its national and international partners but particularly to the Government of South Sudan, the relevant state governments and the United Nations in order to collectively implement a peace process throughout Sudan and South Sudan.”

It pledged to continue to “proclaim the gospel” and “continue its efforts of high-level political and grassroots evangelisation in order to reach all the communities of the Sudan and South Sudan. The ECS will also continue to adhere to the traditions of the Anglican Communion through use of the Prayer Book and training to new and existing pastors on the meaning of Anglicanism.”

Sharia law for the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 28, 2011 November 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced that the Sudan will become Africa’s first theocracy and will give state sanction to Sharia law.

In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President al-Bashir 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.”

Sudan’s Churches have disputed the president’s claim of a near uniform Muslim population, noting that over a million Christians reside in the North. However, their complaints are not likely to deter President al-Bashir.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.  President al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to be charged by the Hague-based court with war crimes, and the first Arab leader to face the prospect of being tried for atrocities by an international tribunal.

In 2008 the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, accused Bashir of directing a campaign of mass murder that has left more than 300,000 civilians dead and driven more than 2.7 million from their homes in Darfur.

International condemnation has not halted al-Bashir and his government is currently being courted by rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Saudi Arabia and Sudan have signed an agreement to mine the bed of the Red Sea—with the kingdom providing the financing for the project and royalties shared between the two states.  Last week Iran’s President Ahmadinejad travelled to Khartoum and gave his country’s support to the embattled president.

While Sudan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with only a small Shia presence in Khartoum, the government of President al-Bashir has adopted a pan-Muslim domestic policy.  Christians and animists have been the target of the regime’s ire.

Migrants from the southern half of the country before partition this year, Southerners are considered foreigners under laws introduced by President al-Bashir’s government, and have until the Spring of 2012 to obtain residency papers or leave the country.

Along Sudan’s unsettled border with South Sudan in South Kordufan State, Nuba Christians are being driven from their homes by government forces and have been forced to flee south for safety.

Sudanese newspapers report that the Khartoum government has begun the process of Islamisation in the North as well.  Three churches in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile, have been notified that the land upon which they were built is owned by the government.  The churches have protested this claim and offered title deeds in support of their ownership, but the government has slated the buildings for demolition.

The Barnabas Fund has reported the government has increased “threats and pressure on churches.”  Some pastors “have been warned not to conduct church services, on pain of death, while some churches are closing their schools and considering emigration to the South.”

“The future for non-Muslims and non-Arabs in Sudan is looking increasingly untenable, threatening the very existence of the Church there,” the Barnabas Fund said.