Friday, March 20, 2009

USA Urged to "Step Up" To Sudan Crisis

by Bill Bowder, Church Times

THE Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul, has called on the British Government to step up its support for the country’s Compre­hensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as the key to peace in Darfur and across the country. Britain is a co-signatory of the agreement, which marked the end of Africa’s longest-running civil war in 2004.

“We are crying to the inter­national community not to abandon the CPA. If it succeeds, then the con­flict in Darfur, too, will be resolved. The British, the Italians, the Ameri­cans, and the Norwegians need to step up now. This is a crucial time,” Dr Deng said on Thursday of last week during a visit to Salisbury dio­cese.

He was speaking just before the indictment of the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes. On Wednesday, the Inter­national Criminal Court issued a warrant for the President’s arrest for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The Court has no means of enforcing the warrant, but cam­paigners hope that it will undermine Mr Bashir. In the short term, how­ever, the President was defiant, telling supporters that the Court could “eat” the warrant.

The next elections for parliament, scheduled for June, were crucial, Dr Deng said. But they were in danger of being postponed: “The Election Law has not yet been produced, and without it there can be no elections. There has been a deliberate delay.”

The mainly Christian south of Sudan will be asked in a referendum in two years’ time if it wants to remain part of a united Sudan.

“If the election is delayed, then the referendum could be delayed, because they are interconnected,” he warned. Another threat came from the Lord’s Resistance Army, still able to make incursions from neigh­bouring Uganda. “It could create insecurity and threaten the election.” The situation in Darfur was also a destabilising force.

“We are trying to tell the govern­ment that the CPA must not be abrogated again. If peace breaks down in Southern Sudan, it will be very difficult to bring peace back again; but if peace comes in the South, then that will be an example to the rest of the country.”

After years of war, people were returning to Sudan from all over the world. “They were scattered for 21 years and now they are coming home from many different places, from Europe, from East Africa. They have never been together for 21 years and they have grown up in different cultures. The Churches own a duty to bring reconciliation.” He said that many people had done things in the war which would need reconciliation and forgiveness.

On the unrelated matter of recon­ciliation within the Anglican Com­munion, Dr Deng did not see much evidence of it. The Primates at the meeting in Alexandria last month had not been in communion with one another.

“We were close to each other and able to look each other in the eye,” he said. But they had not agreed on the issue of homosexuality. “And some of those refused to take communion.

“It was right for people to speak their mind. The Anglican Church belongs to all of us: no one can own it; but we need to speak within it. But we cannot have a different Bible for the 21st century. We can’t change our Bible because of changes in human rights.”

Only if the Anglican Covenant, which will be discussed at the Anglican Consultative Council in June, could be agreed on the basis of the unchanging nature of the Bible, “and not on our human under­standing”, would it be accep­ted by the whole Communion, he believed.

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