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Statement on the Darfur crisis in the context of Sudan

01 September 2009

1. Since early 2003, the conflict in Darfur has unleashed an overwhelming wave of violence resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and in an immense humanitarian crisis with millions of innocent people being displaced and subjected to vile crimes (torture, rape, abductions). The conflict enters its sixth year and constitutes a moral challenge for the international community that must no longer silence and ignore the continuous deteriorating situation of thousands of innocent people who are confronted daily with death and famine and are subjected to conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction.

2. The pursuit of justice, peace and reconciliation has been at the core of the mission of Christian churches as a response to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5: 6-9). The churches in different parts of the world, and especially in those countries which have suffered gross human rights violations, have been struggling against impunity at the national and international level. The rationale of this struggle has been not so much to seek punishment, but to overcome violence and impunity, to support victims and to pursue peace, justice and reconciliation.

3. Churches and ecumenical organizations have always interpreted the cries of the victims as a demand to respect their rights. Victims have the right to know exactly what happened in the case of grave human rights violations. It was within this context that churches raised their prophetic voice with regard to the Armenian genocide. As it was stated in the “Report on the Armenian Genocide”, adopted by the WCC central committee, Geneva, 15 - 22 February 2005: “From the Christian perspective, the path towards justice and reconciliation requires the recognition of the crime committed as a sine qua non condition for the healing of memories and the possibility of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but to look back with the intention to restore justice, the respect for human rights and relationships between perpetrators and victims.”

4. Churches should once again assume their pioneering role and raise their prophetic voice with regard to the Darfur crisis. The crimes committed in Darfur against innocent civilians amount to the crime of genocide as prescribed in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

5. States have a primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, when states manifestly fail to protect their populations, the international community shares a collective responsibility to respond. The international community no longer has the right to remain a bystander and allow the perpetration of large scale atrocities, like the ones occurring in Darfur, to continue unpunished.

6. Unfortunately the government of Sudan has failed to protect its population. Furthermore, following the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against the president of the Republic of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir, the Sudanese government proceeded in the expulsion of a number of humanitarian aid organizations from Darfur who were providing life sustaining assistance to millions of people in the region.

7. At the same time, the lack of progress in the peace negotiations causes further concerns for the future of this war torn region and the livelihood of its people. It also has an impact on the already fragile Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in 2005, which brought to an end a 21 year conflict in the largest country of the African continent. The conflict in Darfur is undoubtedly rather complex and its interconnectedness with other parts of Sudan and ongoing conflicts in neighbouring countries, as well as its destabilizing effects for the whole region should not be underestimated, especially in view of the forthcoming elections in Sudan in 2010 and the country's critical 2011 referendum on a possible secession of the South from Sudan.

Acknowledging the seriousness of the Darfur conflict and its impact on peace and stability in Sudan as expressed in the All Africa Council of Churches general committee “Statement on the situation in Sudan” issued on 24 – 27 March 2009, the central committee of the WCC, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August - 2 September 2009:

A. Condemns the mass atrocities committed against innocent civilians in Darfur.

B. Affirms its commitment and support to all national and international efforts aiming at pursuing justice and accountability with a view to building a long lasting peace through a truly reconciliatory process which will allow people to resettle and reintegrate in their communities from which they were forcefully displaced.

C. Urges the government of Sudan to assume full responsibility for the protection of its citizens irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation, and further calls on all parties in the Darfur conflict to restrain from all forms of violence and to uphold respect for the dignity and human rights of all people in the region.

D. Calls upon the government of Sudan to allow uninterrupted humanitarian assistance to reach all suffering people in Darfur and calls upon the international community to provide the necessary resources.

E. Appeals to the government of Sudan to actively show its commitment to justice and peace by honouring the statements and agreements it has signed, especially the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

F. Urges African nations and the international community, both individually as well as through organizations such as the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations, to continue to support the peace process through constructive dialogue with all parties involved in the conflict.

G. Appreciates the assistance provided by the peace keeping force UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) and calls for further financial and logistical support by the international community in order to allow UNAMID to protect the civilian population most effectively.

H. Acknowledges the significant role of the churches in Sudan in promoting interreligious dialogue and advocating for peace, justice, reconciliation and respect for the dignity and well being of all the people of Sudan.

I. Encourages all Christians to pray for an end to the hostilities in Darfur and for a lasting peace in Sudan.

 

The following prayer is offered as a resource to enable the churches’ engagement with the issue articulated above:

Compassionate God, who through the death of your Son on the cross, suffers alongside wounded humanity,

We remember communities and peoples around the world who have been victims of genocide and mass crimes against humanity.

(the names of specific communities and peoples could be inserted here)

Comfort those who mourn.

Sustain those who live with the scars of violence.

Bless all who work for truth, reconciliation and the healing of memories.

In your name we pray.