CAPE TOWN: Global Evangelicals Pledge Support for Sudanese Christians in Critical Referendum
Sudanese Episcopal bishops urge fair and free votes. Country could descend into war
By David W. Virtue
October 24, 2010
Some 4,000 Global Evangelicals meeting here say they are standing with their brothers and sisters in the Sudan who face the possibility of a failed Referendum next January that could lead to a renewed civil war and possible UN intervention.
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEA) whose organization represents 128 national evangelical alliances in 7 regions with some 420 million people including member organizations and global networks, said the WEA has pledged action to ensure that the referendum taking place on Southern Sudan's future is a success.
He promised the measures in an address to Southern Sudan's President, VP and other senior political leaders at the closing session of a Government-church forum in Juba last week.
In response to calls for assistance from the President and the Sudan Council of Churches, the WEA will mobilize its entire global community to pray for a free, fair and safe referendum; ask its National alliances to lobby their respective governments to support the timeline of the referendum; send international observers to the Sudan for the referendum; launch a Peace for Sudan Fund, support holistic development and call upon all governments to play their part in ensuring that the Khartoum government protects the human rights and religious freedom of all people.
The referendum on January 9, 2011, will determine whether Southern Sudan will become independent from the North.
"The people of Sudan have suffered for many years. Now is the time for a new future that will bring peace, wholeness, dignity, freedom of belief and freedom from extreme poverty. The people of Sudan deserve nothing less," said Tunnicliffe.
Aiah forday-Khabenje, General Secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa (AEA) called upon the international community to support the Southern Sudanese in holding a successful and peaceful referendum. "Sudan was embroiled in civil war for the best part of half a century. That war ended when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was agreed five years ago and it is imperative that the country does not slide back into another destructive cycle of conflict and poverty. We are looking to governments to honor the commitment they made to ensure that the referendum goes ahead on time and that it does not result in further suffering for the people of Sudan."
Sudan is the largest African nation with enormous natural resources. The north is largely Muslim while the south is Christian. Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, the Episcopal Bishop of Khartoum, said Sudan has gone through a difficult time in its history. "We had a peace agreement in 1972, which lasted for 10 years. War broke out 1983. Over 2 million died. We had a new Peace agreement in 2005. Now we have relative peace in the country. There is still a problem in Darfur. In 2011, less than 80 days, we will vote on our self-determination. It is a crucial time in the history of the Sudan."
Kondo said he wanted the referendum to be free and fair, the results to be accepted by all the share holders and the church, their people and their properties be protected. The people will vote for either unity or secession.
The bishop said the referendum will mark the end of the peace agreement. After that the Sudan could go back into war.
Asked by VOL if Sudanese Christian leaders would call on the UN and the US to intervene if a new war erupts, one Episcopal bishop said that the UN is ready to intervene, but did not address the possibility of a US intervention.
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