Sudanese Churches' Four Key Concerns on Troubled Elections--and Four Ways We Can Help
Sudan's impending presidential and parliamentary elections have degenerated into a chaotic mixture of fraud accusations, boycotts, political assassinations, intimidation, abuses of power by the ruling National Congress Party, divisions among the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, and potential tribal violence in many regions of Southern Sudan.
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In a recent church leaders forum held in Juba, Southern Sudan, more than 60 Sudanese Church leaders from 14 churches throughout Sudan gathered to discuss the current and future situation of the country. Along with partners from the international community, church leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, and South Africa were present in solidarity. Representatives of the Muslim community also attended part of the meeting.
The Sudanese Church leaders acknowledge the nation has entered a historic period. Whether Sudan votes to remain united or to become two separate countries after the 2011 referendum, Sudan will never be the same again. They agreed that time is short, and that urgent reflections and actions are needed in order to ensure a peaceful future. This is Sudan's "kairos moment."
Key concerns of the Sudanese Church include:
- Increasing violence within the south and Darfur, delays in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005, and the lack of an international political consensus on the next steps. The Church cares about the freedom, dignity, and human rights of all the people of Sudan, and encourages a spirit of good neighborliness and cooperation.
- The needs of the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile have been severely neglected. (Editor's Note: because of the rich oil reserves and border status between the North and the South of these two states, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement assigned special protocols for how the affairs of these two states are handled-protocols which the North is trying to disregard). The issue must be put at the top of all stakeholders' agendas. Failure to address the aspirations of the people of these two states could derail any peaceful post-2011 transition.
- The elections in April 2010 must be peaceful, free, and fair. This is an opportunity for the Sudanese to exercise their democratic rights. Following the elections, all parties must accept the results, and any disputes should be solved by legal means instead of violence.
- We need an end to violence between ethnic groups and political factions within southern Sudan, and other conflicts within Sudan. The Church calls on political leaders and the international community to play a constructive role in healing and reconciliation of the communities of Sudan.
How can the worldwide Christian community support and pray for the Sudanese people during this time of uncertainties?
- The worldwide Church, especially the evangelicals, must confess their years of silence as the Sudanese Church has faced suffering, humiliation, and brutality.
- Pray for the coming elections and especially for peace and stability before, during, and after the elections, no matter who becomes the winner of the elections.
- Tangibly support programs and projects that focus on capacity building, leadership training, peace building, and reconciliation ministries through and with the church in both North and South Sudan.
- Encourage, support, and join the Church in Sudan in its efforts to speak the truth fearlessly even for issues of national concern, and to continue its gospel-led mission to give a voice to the voiceless, the poor, and the marginalized.
As a Rwandan evangelical theologian who has been involved in leadership development and reconciliation ministries in both South and North Sudan, I have witnessed Sudanese Church leaders call on evangelicals worldwide to join them in supporting the mission of the church. In response to a request from the Sudanese Church, the All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches have jointly appointed an Ecumenical Special Envoy to Sudan to accompany them in the process. It has always been my prayer that the evangelical community in the United States and Europe will wake up one day and make Sudan a critical priority. I hope we heed to this call and stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rev. Dr. Célestin Musekura is the President and CEO of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Inc.