October 1, 2008 (JUBA) — The President of southern Sudan government, Salva Kiir Mayadrit congratulated Muslims in the semi autonomous region on the occasion of Eid El-Fitr and reaffirmed GoSS respect for all the religions.
- President Salva Kiir addressing congregation at All Saints Cathedral in Juba on ocassion of Enthronement of Archbishop Deng of ECS (I Vuni, ST)
Kiir was attending the day’s celebrations at the invitation of Muslims in Juba, on the occasion of the performance of the Eid Fitr prayer at the Freedom Square and the Mulid Square in Juba on Tuesday morning.
President Kiir congratulated Muslims in Southern Sudan and all over the world for the Eid El Fitr Celebration and said, “I came here not to give public speech but to congratulate you for the Eid-El-Fitr-El-Mubarak; we hope every year will be the same.”
After a brief introduction and official welcome by Moulana Tahir Bior, Chairman of Islamic Association for Southern Sudan, President Kiir walked to the podium and gave his remarks.
Kiir said that GOSS and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in particular, respect all religions, and GOSS and SPLM do not discriminate against anybody based on religion. “We don’t have problems with Islamic or any other religion, that is why when we were still fighting in the bush, we the SPLM/SPLA asked our Muslims brothers and sisters to form the New Sudan Council of Islam.”
Kiir told Muslims that they are welcome to live in Southern Sudan. Kiir continued saying, “if there is anybody causing problems with you because you are a Muslin here in any part of South Sudan, please let me know. If you cannot reach me, your brother Moulana Tahir Bior knows where I live, inform him and he will know where and how to get me.
“I want all of us to continue with the spirit of togetherness and oneness as people of one nation. We don’t want religion to create problems among us, but I am telling those who want to create problems because of religion that, religion is a personal choice, if I want to become a Muslim it is my choice, I will not accept to be converted by force, because religion is the relationship between me and God. I will not accept anybody to force me to become a Muslim whatever the case may be.”
In his remarks Kiir emphasized that he has ordered the governors of the ten states of Southern Sudan to ensure the proper of return properties belonging to Muslims that had been confiscated or taken by force during the war. “I want the governors to seriously work on this order,” said Kiir.
Kiir called for religious tolerance and concluded with a story: "When we were still fighting in the bush, we captured some people who called themselves Mujahidin, each of them has a key in his pocket, they were told that these keys are for the gate to heaven, and to go to heaven they are to come and pass through South Sudan. We told them, this is not true, if really the way to heaven is [through] South Sudan, they would have not find anybody on earth here in South Sudan. We the South Sudanese would have all gone to heaven. Brothers and sisters, this is how people create problems and confusions in the name of religion, which we in the GOSS or the SPLM don’t want the same thing to happen in South Sudan."
Kiir remarks come amid speculations raised in Khartoum about the mistreatment of Muslim in southern Sudan.
Salva Kiir Mayardit serves as the first vice president of the national government in addition to his role as president of Southern Sudan and he is the SPLM candidate for president of Sudan in the 2009 elections.
President Mayardit fought against the national government in Sudan’s first civil war, joined its military after the 1972 peace deal in Addis Ababa, but then became a founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in 1983, which fought the Sudanese government until 2005.