Church leaders join appeal to China to act on Darfur before Olympics

 Nobel Peace Laureates Bishop Carlos Belo and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lord Alton and Baroness Shirley Williams have joined around a hundred Nobel laureates, Olympic athletes, politicians, artists and human rights activists in a petition urging China to work for peace in Darfur, today's Independent reports. The open letter comes a day after Steven Spielberg resigned as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics in protest at China's increasing trade with Sudan, which is funding and arming the war on Darfur. The letter states: "As the primary economic, military and political partner of the government of Sudan, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a just peace in Darfur. Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people. As host of the 2008 Olympic Games, China has a special role to play in ensuring that its actions this year are commensurate with the Olympic ideals of peace and international co-operation." It continues: "Of the seven million inhabitants of Darfur, hundreds of thousands have already died due to the conflict and 2.5 million have been displaced. Rape and sexual violence have been and continue to be used as weapons of war against untold numbers of girls and women. The government of Sudan has also been involved in the forced relocation of people from refugee and internally displaced people's camps. Without homes to return to, those displaced are left vulnerable to further attack. "We recognise some efforts by China in 2007 to increase diplomatic pressure on Sudan notably through its support of the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1769, calling for the deployment of a UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping force (Unamid) to Darfur. At the same time, however, we note with dismay that the Chinese government worked to weaken the resolution before it passed. China also doubled its trade with Sudan in 2007, providing resources that make iteasier for that government to continue to carry out its atrocities. China's military relationship with Sudan also continues. We have also been disheartened by your government's action since Resolution 1769 was passed. Your government has remained silent as Sudan continues to block the effective deployment of Unamid and engages in violent actions that violate the spirit of the mission. Given the severity of the crisis in Darfur, and the nature of the China-Sudan relationship, we are calling for more serious action by your government in support of the full, immediate and unimpeded deployment of Unamid." The letter concludes: "As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games approach, we will continue to call on the Chinese government for action. We are aware of the tremendous potential for China to help bring an end to the conflict in Darfur. We will continue to watch for concerted and consistent Chinese action to ensure rapid deployment of UN-AU peacekeepers, progress in the peace talks, and an end to the use of rape as a weapon of war." Source: The Independent/BBC To read the full letter see:

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