Let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
(1 Peter 3:11)
More than a month after conflict suddenly broke out in Sudan, the people of Sudan continue to be the innocent victims of a dispute within the Military Council that has ruled the country since the coup of October 2021. Having collaborated in derailing Sudan’s trajectory towards democracy and civilian rule, the two military leaders – General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese army, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces – are now struggling over the wreckage of a nation.
The Sudanese people, already highly vulnerable before this conflict, now face a humanitarian catastrophe as a consequence of the destruction and displacement the fighting has caused. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Sudan, and tens of thousands are fleeing across the border to Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and elsewhere, straining limited resources and humanitarian operations that are already facing major funding gaps. In Ethiopia and South Sudan, Sudanese refugees are arriving in areas already experiencing ‘emergency’ levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 4).
Reports received from the churches, from the Sudan Council of Churches and from specialized ministries operating in Sudan indicate a situation of complete disruption of civilian life and of capacities for humanitarian response. Within the context of generalized violence affecting all parts of the community, recent reports have indicated increasingly grievous impacts on the churches and religious communities of Sudan.
Worshippers in the Mar Girgis (St George) Coptic Church in Omdurman were attacked during mass on Sunday 14 May 2023, with serious injuries reported. Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals in Khartoum have been shelled, damaged and looted. The All Saints Cathedral of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Sudan was and remains occupied by paramilitaries. Churches and mosques in Geneina, El Fashr and Nyalla are similarly affected. Bishops, priests and religious leaders are displaced everywhere.
A week-long ceasefire officially commenced on Monday 22 May 2023, promising a salutary opportunity for delivery of critically-needed humanitarian aid. However, even this temporary ceasefire is poorly respected and fighting has continued in many areas.
The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting online on 22-26 May 2023 therefore:
Appeals to all combatants to respect the ceasefire agreement so that humanitarian operations can proceed, to refrain from further violence, killing, destruction and looting, to respect international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians, and to commit to a permanent cessation of hostilities so that civilians can safely resume their lives and livelihoods, and the nation of Sudan can begin the process of rebuilding and reconciliation.
Urges all responsible members of the international community to prevail upon the armed actors to engage in meaningful negotiations for a sustainable peace, to respond swiftly and effectively to the humanitarian emergency in Sudan, and to press for a rapid resumption of Sudan’s path towards democracy and civilian rule from which it was illegitimately diverted by the military coup of October 2021.
Calls on all WCC member churches and ecumenical partners, and all people of good will, to join in solidarity and support for the people of Sudan, who have suffered so much for so long, and with far too little care from the wider world.
Strongly encourages support for relevant appeals and activities by ACT Alliance and others to mitigate the suffering of the people of Sudan.
Asks the general secretary to lead an ecumenical pilgrim visit to offer solidarity to the churches and people of Sudan as soon as security conditions allow.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more..