Cardinal O'Brien welcomes Darfur peace agreement

 Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who visited the troubled Darfur region of Sudan earlier this year with Scottish aid agency SCIAF, has cautiously welcomed the recent agreement as the first step towards peace. The Sudanese Government and one of the rebel groups reached an agreement to halt the fighting that has displaced over two million people and cost thousands their lives. However two of the other rebel militias refused to sign the peace deal. SCIAF has been funding work in the region since the conflict began over two years ago. Earlier this year Paul Chitnis, SCIAF Chief Executive and Cardinal O'Brien, Chair of SCIAF's Board, travelled to the region. They spent time visiting camps where funds from Scotland provide schooling, healthcare and counselling to those left traumatised by the fighting. On their return Mr Chitnis and Cardinal O'Brien committed to remember the people of Darfur and to support the move towards peace. Cardinal O'Brien said: "The signing of the peace agreement is the first step towards peace and I welcome it. However, to improve the lives of the two million people affected by the fighting, the peace must be sustainable. "In my visit to Darfur earlier this year with SCIAF, I met many people whose lives have been devastated by the conflict. "With this new agreement, the safety of civilians and aid workers must be made a priority. It must be clear that any attempts to break the ceasefire will not be tolerated. There must also be a renewed commitment from the UN to return its aid to the original levels and ensure the thousands sheltering in camps receive an adequate supply of food and medicine. International donors must meet their commitments." The on-going conflict means farmers have been unable to plant or harvest over the last few years, causing food shortages across the country and leading to dependency on supplies from overseas. With the new peace agreement, it is hoped that farming communities can begin to return home in safety over the next few months and can meet this year's planting season. Paul Chitnis said: "It's time for the international community to renew its focus on the region and to direct its considerable resources towards helping those in Darfur maintain a peace that works for the people." Source: SCIAF

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