‘I am coming to ring the alarm bell about Sudan’
Bishop gives stark message as he prepares for UK trip
By John Pontifex
ON the eve of a landmark visit to the UK, a bishop from one of Sudan’s worst trouble spots has spelled out calls for the international community to prevent the region from “descending into violence”.
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala’s visit to London, Edinburgh and Glasgow later this month comes barely three months ahead of Sudan’s all-important referendum on possible secession of South Sudan to form a separate country in its own right.
In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is organising key elements of his UK programme, Bishop Hiiboro described how South Sudan was under threat of renewed violence amid signs of a breakdown in preparations for the vote, due in early January.
The Bishop of Tombura-Yambio, on South Sudan’s border with the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote: “I am coming to the great nation of the UK to ring the alarm bell regarding the situation in the Sudan.”
Amid reports of his diocese being terrorised by Uganda-based rebels the Lords Resistance Army, the bishop added: “There is a real and imminent threat to the security of the people of Sudan and indeed the whole region.”
Bishop Hiiboro, outlined concerns that the referendum may prompt disaster.
He stressed that as ‘guarantors’ of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended Sudan’s 20-year civil war, the international community was duty-bound to intervene to prevent renewed violence.
The bishop wrote: “If it goes well, the referendum will bring peace to a country which has suffered almost five decades of brutal civil war… but if not then Sudan will descend into violence and instability which will affect the whole region.”
He added: “The CPA guarantors – especially the UK, EU, USA, UN and the whole international community – need to demonstrate a renewed political will and commitment to enhance their engagement not just until the referendum but throughout the coming months and years of transition.”
(Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura Yambio)
Bishop Hiiboro and other bishops have repeatedly warned of Sudanese politicians’ lack of commitment to agreed CPA pre-referendum guidelines – especially voter registration, involvement of diverse political factions and groups and raising awareness among the people about the vote and its implications.
It comes amid fears that, rather than working towards a long-term peace accord, some political groups and factions are preparing for war, thereby risking a return to the civil war that killed more than 2.5 million people.
Bishop Hiiboro writes: “Opportunities to encourage success or prepare adequately for failure are rapidly dwindling. There is no time to waste.”
The bishop is expected to spell out his concerns to a number of Catholic charities, government officials as well as Church leaders both in the UK and in mainland Europe, which he is also visiting as part of his trip.
In his message to ACN, Bishop Hiiboro also re-iterated long-held fears of his fellow Christians that a continuation of a united Sudan – with continuing political direction from President Omar al Bashir’s Khartoum-based Islamist regime – would herald a return to intimidation and persecution of non-Muslims.
He wrote: “We have been witnesses of acts of unimaginable violence and contempt for mankind.
“How can we talk about a peaceful referendum without recalling with concern the persistent persecution of Christians which the Sudan has experienced? Have not the brutal facts not crushed any commitment to voting for a united Sudan.”
The bishop went on to praise the benefactors of UK Catholic charities including Aid to the Church in Need.
He wrote: “Another reason I am coming to the UK is to thank you Aid to the Church in Need and all her kind benefactors for the enormous support you have ever offered to the suffering masses of the Sudan.
“Thank you and God bless each and every one of you.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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