World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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13 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 46

The World Council of Churches told the Sudan foreign minister on Saturday (12 December) that it was shocked by a bombing raid reported to have killed six people in Southern Sudan and to have damaged a cathedral and school served by Bishop Paride Taban. The Roman Catholic bishop preached at the WCC's Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, a week earlier and appealed for the international community to stop the slaughter in his region.

A letter from the WCC to the minister in Khartoum, Mustafa Ismail Usman, says that according to its information, 14 bombs exploded in Narus town square. In addition to the deaths, 14 people were reported seriously wounded.

"It is strongly suspected that units of the Sudanese army were responsible for this atrocious act," says the letter. "According to some reports we have received, the attack was in retribution for a sermon Bishop Paride preached in a public stadium here in Harare at the special invitation of the World Council of Churches.

"Without judging the motivation until more facts are known, we in any case condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of violence apparently directed at Bishop Paride. We urge you to take immediate measures to ensure his absolute personal security, and to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible act."

The letter is signed by the Moderator of the Central Committee, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, and the General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser.

Bishop Taban had told his Assembly congregation that he had witnessed two blitz-style bombing raids by Khartoum on centres where there was no military presence. Referring to the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq to protect the Kurds, he had said: "Our people ask, "Are we not worth human life to be protected from the Sudanese air force by the imposition of a no-fly zone?' "

His call was backed up on Thursday (10 December) by a meeting of Assembly delegates and visitors from Southern Sudan, who urged the WCC not to be party to a conspiracy of silence on genocide "being perpetrated by the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum against the people of Southern Sudan".

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.