The Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), has met with members of the country's Islamic government to call for a sincere and lasting peace. The SCC delegation, with Christian Aid staff, held talks with Dr Mutrif Siddik, under secretary of the ministry of external relations of Sudan, in Khartoum about obstacles still standing in the way of peace. The SCC were prompted by signs that the government is taking a more flexible position, illustrated by the recent cease -fire agreed for the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan. Concerns, however, were raised over the Government's continued bombing of villages in southern Sudan, and also their support for the Murahelin militias which regularly carry out raids there killing civilians and abducting women and children. The SCC also reiterated its call for the suspension of oil exploitation in Sudan until there is a comprehensive peace agreement so that the benefits of oil accrue to all Sudanese people. Rev Taban Elonia, chair of the SCC, said: 'We deeply regret that the civil war is still going on, after more than 18 years of fighting. However the recent initiatives for peace from inside and outside of Sudan are encouragement for our firm hope. We pray for peace and are committed by our faith to work for peace and justice.' Since independence in 1956, Sudan has had only one decade free from civil war. The country is split between the Islamic north, controlled by the Government of Sudan, and the mostly non - Islamic south, largely held by the Sudan's People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Phil Craine, programme manager for the horn of Africa, who attended the meeting said: 'After 18 years the Sudanese people are tired of war. Since September 11th the government is showing increasing signs of flexibility which is welcomed by both the SCC and Christian Aid, its partner agency. This still needs to be translated into concrete steps such as stopping civilian bombings, respect for church property, fair share of the oil resources and ultimately a just and lasting peace settlement.'
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