Scottish cardinal to visit Sudan

 Cardinal O'Brien, Chairman of SCIAF, and Paul Chitnis, SCIAF's Chief Executive, will visit Sudan from 17- 28 January. They will travel to former war zones in the South of the country. Then Cardinal O'Brien will become the first Western Cardinal to visit Darfur which the UN has called the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world. The visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of Sudan's independence and the diamond jubilee of the priesthood in Sudan. In 2005, after decades of civil war, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement. For only the second time in nearly fifty years southern Sudan is at peace. As possibly the poorest part of an already impoverished continent, the people in southern Sudan live daily with food shortages, poor access to water and high infant mortality. Cardinal O'Brien and Mr Chitnis will visit the town of Juba in the South from where millions of people who fled their homes during the war are now returning. They will learn about the enormous humanitarian challenges facing people as they try to rebuild their lives. Commenting on his trip, the Cardinal said: "As I have sought to do on previous visits to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, I am visiting Sudan first to understand better the problems facing people in this desperately poor and fragile country. I also want to reassure people in Sudan that the people of Scotland care deeply about their plight and will continue to support them as they work towards making peace a reality." The Cardinal and Mr Chitnis will spend the remainder of their trip in Darfur, meeting some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled fighting and are sheltering in temporary camps. Mr Chitnis explained: "For many years, attacks by armed militia have left thousands homeless and dependent on aid. It is not a local problem but an international crisis. "The Cardinal and I will be travelling to remote areas to meet people affected by the violence. We hope our visit will refocus attention on this forgotten crisis. Scotland became the focal point of world attention last July when the G8 leaders met in Gleneagles and discussed the plight of Africa. We hope this visit will help remind all those that need reminding that the needs of people in Africa should be the highest political priority in 2006."

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