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Conference calls for just peace in Sudan

 Delegates at the Sudan Ecumenical Forum assembly have welcomed the UK government's new commitments for peace in Sudan, but warned that a peace settlement must be just and lasting and not a quick fix solution. The conference on the 4 - 6 March in London brought together church leaders from Sudan and their world-wide church partners. Archbishop Joseph Marona, Primate of the Episcopal church in Sudan said: "Our people have suffered too long. As churches we welcome greater UK involvement and call on the British government to do all it can to secure peace with justice." Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development addressed the delegates: "There are currently the conditions to achieve a peace deal in Sudan and no reason why we should not try. It is fantastically important that we try to end this war." Making their position clear the delegates outlined three key issues that the UK Government and international partners must address if a just and lasting peace is to be achieved. Since 1999, the churches of southern Sudan have systematically documented bomb attacks on civilians by the government of Sudan. Recent reports have revealed an increase in attacks on civilians using helicopter gun ships. The delegates called on the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to put an immediate end to the bombings and other attacks on civilians. Research, particularly in the last two years, has shown the oil business has aggravated the suffering of civilians, especially in the oil producing areas. Delegates confirmed the Sudanese churches position that oil exploration must be suspended until there is a just and sustainable peace and agreement has been reached for the equitable sharing of resources. The Sudanese church echoed the voices of the suffering people of Sudan to call on all the political leaders to ensure that any peace settlement includes the rights of the southern Sudanese and other marginalised people to determine for themselves how they should be governed. Delegates also re-affirmed the churches' position that slavery and abduction are the result of the on going conflict and therefore must be ended through a political settlement.