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Sudanese church leaders meet to consider future

 


Sudanese church leaders meet to consider future

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Photo by Bjarne Ussing, DanChurchAid/ACT International

Asisa Ateib is a refugee from Korney in West Darfur, Sudan.

Feb. 10, 2005

By Fredrick Nzwili*
 
NAIROBI, Kenya (ENI) — A meeting of Sudanese Christian leaders in Nairobi has ended with a warning that churches risk being marginalized if they cannot draw up a clear strategy after an agreement by the Sudanese government and rebels to end a long-running civil war. 
 
“Sudan is at the most dangerous stage now,” said the Rev. Mvume Dandala, a Methodist and chief executive of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches, which hosted the two-day meeting that ended Feb. 8. “The churches must unite to fortify the peace.”
 
The 21-year-long civil war, in which predominantly Christian and animist southern Sudanese struggled for autonomy from the mainly Islamic north, also led to the formation of two ecumenical church groups for the country.  
 
The Sudan Council of Churches, based in the capital, Khartoum, formally represented all of the country’s churches, but the civil war prevented it from operating outside government-controlled areas.  
 
A separate body with headquarters based in Nairobi, the New Sudan Council of Churches, was set up for the south of Sudan.  
 
Still, leaders of the two groups cautioned against hasty action to unite their councils. 
  
“It could confuse communities at this critical juncture,” said Haruun Ruun, executive secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches. “It therefore calls for a gradual and smooth approach.” 
 
The chief executive of the Khartoum-based council, the Rev. Paul Chol Deng, said churches were united even with two groups to represent them. 
 
Melaku Kifle, an official of the World Council of Churches, said the Sudanese churches needed to articulate a clear vision of how they would work together in the future or risk marginalization. 
 
“The major challenge is how to further strengthen our ecumenical working relationships at the local, national and continental levels,” he told Ecumenical News International.  
 
Isaak Kongur Kenyi, executive secretary of the justice and peace commission of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, urged churches in other parts of Africa to provide support to Christians in Sudan. 
 
Solidarity from African churches lagged behind that received from Europe and North America in the wake of the Sudan peace agreement signed Jan. 9. 
 
The conflict between the largely black, Christian and animist south and the Muslim north displaced up to 5 million people. The peace agreement does not deal with the unrelated strife in western Sudan’s Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people have died of malnutrition and disease in the past year and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless.


*Nzwili is a writer for Ecumenical News International, which distributed this story.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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