Sudanese church leaders warn of threats to peace ahead of elections

Just two weeks before Sudanese voters head to the polls for the country's first multiparty elections in a generation, church leaders in Sudan have issued a stark warning about the long-term prospect of peace for the country.

In a statement they said increasing violence, delays in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and a lack of international consensus on next steps, threaten the fragile peace, following the end of the twenty-year bloody civil war between north and south.

Faith leaders from fourteen Sudanese Churches called on the national and international community, to act now, saying: "This is Sudan's Kairos Moment. Time is short and urgent reflection and action is needed to ensure a peaceful future. After the referendum in January 2011 Sudan will never be the same again, whether it remains united or becomes two countries. There is no time to waste."

The people of Southern Sudan and Abyei regions will have a referendum to choose between unity with the north or independence. Whilst under the terms of the 2005 peace accord, people living in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions will instead participate in ill-defined "popular consultations".

The statement, entitled:'A Vision for a Peaceful Sudan', is particularly concerned that if popular consultations for these two states are not handled properly it could derail the peace, and urged the Governments of National Unity and Southern Sudan, the African Union, European Union, United Nations along with western nations to consider the current situation as a top priority, if renewed conflict is to be avoided. The faith leaders also stressed that there must be no delay in holding the Southern Sudan and Abyei referendums, as this would lead to certain conflict.

This faith consensus came out of a meeting in Juba organised by the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and the Sudan Council of Churches, and was joined by church leaders from across Africa, as well as Muslim community representatives.

The Sudanese church representatives committed themselves to facilitate a process of dialogue - 'People to People', to counter internal conflicts and strengthen peaceful co-existence in the south and other marginalised areas of Sudan. The programme is being supported by the Catholic aid agency CAFOD, who have pledged nearly £300,000 to the project over the next year.

Source: CAFOD

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