8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
WCC Urged to Intervene for the Suffering in Sudan

Delegates to the eighth assembly heard several impassioned pleas for the World Council of Churches to take action on behalf of the suffering people of Sudan.

For most of the country's history since its independence over 40 years ago, it has been ravaged by civil war. The major divide is between the largely Muslim North, where the government in Khartoum has implemented Islamic law, and the largely Christian or animist South. But as the war has dragged on, ethnic and factional infighting has compounded the suffering of the people of the South.

Human-rights observers accuse Sudan's government of using torture and a revived slave trade to subdue the southern Sudanese. Relief agencies claim the regime is creating severe famine in the South by blocking food shipments.

A Roman Catholic bishop from Sudan begged the WCC to support foreign intervention in his war-ravaged country similar to that mounted in other international trouble spots of recent years. Speaking at a celebration with Zimbabwean churches at Harare's Rufaro Stadium, Paride Taban of the diocese of Torit said: "My people, who have no voice, asked me to come here and give voice to their cries. The suffering people of Sudan ask, ĎAre we not worth as much protection from the bombers in Khartoum as the Kurds are from the bombers in Baghdad? Are we not worth as much protection from those who would kill us as the people of Kosovo?'"

The devasting effects of years of civil war as experience
by the people of the Southern Blue Nile, Sudan

Photo by Nils Carstensen/ACT
Click on the photo to order (ref. Sudan/ACT 06)

A week after Bishop Taban returned to Sudan, the WCC received word that 14 bombs had exploded in the town of Narus near the cathedral he serves. The bishop was not hurt, but six other people were said to have been killed and 14 seriously wounded. Reports indicated the bombing was carried out by units of the Sudanese army in retaliation for the bishop's outspoken appeal to the WCC. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the WCC, sent a letter of protest to Sudan's minister of foreign affairs, urging him to ensure Paride's "absolute personal security, and to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible act".

One of the many young Sudanese hoping for peace

Photo by Nils Carstensen/ACT
Click on the photo to order (ref. Sudan/ACT 06)

A "crisis meeting" of delegates and visitors from Sudan urged the WCC not to be party to an "international conspiracy of silence on the genocide in southern Sudan". A statement issued after the meeting asked the Council to "call for an end to religious persecution, slavery, economic injustice, political oppression and racism" in Sudan.

Some 1.5 million people have died in Sudan's civil war since 1983, according to Barnaba Benjamin, an official of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement for Southern Africa. Another 5 million have been forced to flee their homes.

"Many Christians are being tortured and killed," Benjamin said. "They are being martyred because they will not renounce their Christian faith and accept Islam."

Go to Missionaries: More than One Opinion
Return to Together on Holy Ground contents page
Return to Assembly Archive index

© 1999 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor