The Common Good

Southern Sudanese in Khartoum at Risk

[Editors' note: South Sudan is preparing for its independence referendum on January 9 -- an event whose occurrence is threatened by North Sudan's intransigence and by logistical hurdles, but which is necessary to help prevent a disastrous return to north-south civil war. Below, the Episcopal archbishop of Sudan highlights the threat faced during this time by the over half a million Southern Sudanese people who are living in the north part of the country, many of whom fled to escape the civil war.]

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One of the reasons we as the churches [visited the U.S. in October] is because of the risk which is going to affect many, many internally displaced persons living in the North. Their position is terrible, and they are not secure. A peaceful demonstration was done [in mid-October] between the people in the North asking the unity of the Sudan. Then a few Southerners came also, making a demonstration asking for the separation of the South. The police rounded up all these people, and they beat them -- the people from the Southern Sudan. The police we support to protect them, joined in beating these people. And we are speaking now, some of them have been arrested and we don't know where they are. That is the kind of life now our people are living in the Northern Sudan.

[Not long afterwards,] we received an email that there was an attempt to kidnap [South Sudanese] students from universities who are living in the North. So you see, the danger already is beginning to happen. We have been asking the government of the South if there is a way for the students who are living in the North who are Southerners to be transported back to Southern Sudan, for their lives to be safe. They are isolated, living in a very, very remote area in a suburb of Khartoum, and suburbs of different towns in the North, which can make them easier targets for anybody who wanted to do them harm. So what we are telling the community -- also the international community: How do we protect these who are already very vulnerable? That has been our message we have been telling our partners, including the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom and also the U.N.

Something needs to be done now. The world is good at talking when people are already dead, but we are saying, "No, let us help the people before they are dead." As a church we are informing you, our partners, the government, the international community: This is going to happen. We want to warn the international community not to allow anything to happen like what happened in Rwanda.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel Deng Bul is archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. This blog is taken from an interview in October with Sojourners associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg.

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