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CORRECTION: Life for Church in north will probably become harder if Sudan separates - Catholic group

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August 4, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The northern Sudanese church will suffer if the south secedes from the north after a referendum next year according to a prominent South African catholic organization.

Group of Sudanese BishopsThe referendum due for the coming January signifies the end of a 6 year peace agreement between the parties that control mainly Islamic north and south Sudan where many people are Christian.

John Ashworth, the acting director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute told the Catholic news service Zenit that:

‘Life will probably become more difficult for the Church in the North after secession of the South, as it will continue to live under an oppressive Islamist regime, but it has experienced this often before and no doubt it will survive.’

Ashworth who has lived in Sudan for over a decade working for the Catholic Church and aid agencies, said that all northern governments since independence from Britain had attempted impose an Arab-Islamic cultural and religious identity on the whole of Sudan making those who do not assimilate ‘second class citizens.’

‘On a day-to-day level many Christians, Muslims and followers of African traditional religions live side by side without problems,’ said Ashworth.

‘However, the government of Sudan is an Islamist regime and successive northern governments have had a policy of "Islamization" that has adversely affected non-Muslims.’

The main cause of conflict in Sudan - a centralized government marginalizing peripheral areas - has never been solved in a united Sudan, according to Ashworth. It is for this reason, he said, that ‘southerners believe that the only solution is secession.’

‘In their own independent state they [Southern Sudanese] will not face "Islamization and Arabization," nor marginalization from the center of power, and they have most of the oil in their territory,’ the acting director said.

Of Sudan’s known oil reserves 85% lie in southern Sudan. Many southern Sudanese are Christian of various denominations, while others practice tradition African beliefs.

The semi-autonomous region has had its own government, controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement since the former rebels signed a peace deal with the country’s ruling National Congress Party in 2005.

The two parties agreed to share power and Sudan’s oil wealth as well as giving the south the opportunity to vote on secession after a six year interim period.

At the time of the deal south Sudan was one of the worlds least developed regions having experienced conflict almost continuously since 1955.

Many groups in southern Sudan are still heavily armed. Last year alone ethnic clashes killed 2,500 people and forced 350,000 flee their homes. Yesterday a medical aid group MSF announced it had pulled out of some areas in southern Sudan saying it was too dangerous for them work.

In his interview Ashworth said the southern government needed to improve but seemed confident southern Sudan would be a viable state should it choose to separate from the north.

‘Southern Sudan is already functioning as a state, so for them secession will not be a major change on the ground. It is hoped that the progress will continue and that some of the weaknesses in the government will be challenged,’ he said.

The Denis Hurley Peace Institute, helped the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference produce their statement on the referendum last week.

The statement did not* openly advocate for unity or independence but underlined the importance of respecting life and human rights.

In July many Church leaders have came out strongly in favour of separation.
Bishop Paul Yugusuk, of the Episcopal Church of Sudan told the BBC earlier this month that church leaders are not willing to willing to leave the decision to his congregation.

"We should not leave them to decide for themselves [... ] If they decide for unity... it will be disastrous," he said.

Under the deal - known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) - the SPLM are not allowed to campaign openly for succession.

Ashworth describes the CPA* as not being comprehensive:

‘It is not comprehensive, as it only deals with one of the conflicts in Sudan — it doesn’t touch Darfur — and it is only between two warring parties, excluding all other political parties and military factions, north and south, as well as civil society.

It is not peace — it is actually a ceasefire with a roadmap towards peace. Of course moving the conflict from the military to the political arena was a great step forward, but the conflict continues.

It is not an agreement — it was signed in 2005 by Khartoum under intense diplomatic pressure.

Southerners view the Comprehensive Peace Agreement almost solely in terms of preparation for the referendum in 2011.’

Southern Sudan is widely expected to vote for full independence in the referendum scheduled for January 9, 2011.

(ST)

* In the original article not was omitted.

** The original article described Ashworth as being highly critical of the CPA. John Ashworth contacted Sudan Tribune to say:

This Sudan Tribune article is an example of poorly recycled journalism. It refers to the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference statement issued a couple of weeks ago, an interview I gave to Zenit some time later, and an older statement by other religious leaders. The quotes which Sudan Tribune attributes to me are correct, but they were short answers to specific questions in a limited interview, and Sudan Tribune has mischaracterised my position by stating, "Ashworth is highly critical of the CPA". At no time did Sudan Tribune contact me to check this. In fact I am not "highly critical" of the CPA. I believe it was a great achievement which moved the peace process forward - indeed Sudan Tribune contradicts itself by quoting me as calling it "a great step forward". However I also believe it is important to understand what the CPA is and what it isn’t, and it is not the first time that I have analysed the CPA in this controversial manner.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 5 August 2010 03:07, by jur_likang_a_ likan’g

    Please note at the time of signing the peace agreement and indeed all the agreements for peace in Sudan there was no war in any part of Sudan. All the people of Northern Sudan with the exception of Dar Nuba and Dar Ingessana were all out for war against South Sudanese and for that reason the agreement was comprehensive then and it is how it drew its name. Note that the war was entirely for forced islamisation and arabisation of non-mohamedans of South Sudan that necessitated Southerners to put up resistance to maintain their freedom and independence on their own matters.

    repondre message

    • 5 August 2010 08:12, by Kuer Dau Apai

      Those are exactly for the SPLM reasons to support separation!!

      In the world wide mainstream system of rulings, there have been no much imposed of religion laws to govern the country. The Islamisation and Arabisation of the Sudanese regime government have encouraged and brought the southerners decision hanging to vote for separation.

      This will free the Christians and other denomination from the Arab mixed of government and Islamic rulings.

      The SPLM since in its inception wasn’t objectively aimed for separation but the NCP under formed and ill-judged behaviours in the interim period have brought all-abouts!!

      Thank All

      repondre message

    • 5 August 2010 08:46, by Machingela gai

      Dear Catholic group,

      As you know that life will be difficult over there after secession in the North, than why don’t you make an arrangment with the world powers and the UN to secure and save lives before the day of choas gets here.? This is the right time to inform the churches in the North of what is likely to come after referendum. Let them know what is going on so that there would be no blame later on when things don’t go well.
      A weak voice and a slow action cannot do anything, but speedy-fast-pace is now needed to help people and churches to get out safely with many blessings. Let North be North, and South be South. The same thing to religions; let christians be christians, and Muslims be Muslims. You free yourselves from sending out that simple message of seperation than memmuring down with no direction.

      repondre message

  • 5 August 2010 08:24, by Sudan virus

    All are not happy. Even vice president/president of south Sudan Salva Kiir never smiled in his life when he is in Khartoum.

    Calm dawn, we will secede as independent state at any cost.

    God is great.

    repondre message

    • 5 August 2010 13:35, by william wol

      Dear fellow brothers in Christ, it is good that you learnt it by yourselves that life of christian will be very hard in north incase southerners will chosen cession!!!! Indeed, we will separate from north by hook and croock, therefore, it is better to rash out of danger before the time caugt you up. Because north not a jerusalem nor pardise. It was already been grapped from us, so let`s leave it for a while come to south gain momentum and we will expell arab out of sudan teritorry. (wun ci lek ace pec).

      repondre message

  • 5 August 2010 16:09, by black-hope

    My message to all Southerners in the North donot be sacre of your life in the North but put more focuses on self determination because we donot want the same history to repeat it self thank .

    repondre message

  • 6 August 2010 00:35, by Deng Ateny Lueth

    don’t worry the will go to heaven when muslims kill them.you should not be worry for those who kill the flesh. but anybody who want to remain in the north should do that even southern sudanese who want to be part of the north should stay there where their hearts are.we have have NUER on both side of sudan and ethiopia, we have Acholi part Ugandan and half south sudan, we surely have kakwoa between uganda and south sudan,and next time we will have Dinka in the north and Dinka in the south. people were not forcefully splited by governments, they were separated by natural course as they migrated to various places i mentioned above,some were splited by colonial masters during the colonization era,and some vuluntarily decided on their own and leave. so let there be no mistake about who will fall into unmerciful of islam in the north, not at this time,and not at all.

    repondre message

  • 6 August 2010 00:36, by Deng Ateny Lueth

    don’t worry the will go to heaven when muslims kill them.you should not be worry for those who kill the flesh. but anybody who want to remain in the north should do that even southern sudanese who want to be part of the north should stay there where their hearts are.we have have NUER on both side of sudan and ethiopia, we have Acholi part Ugandan and half south sudan, we surely have kakwoa between uganda and south sudan,and next time we will have Dinka in the north and Dinka in the south. people were not forcefully splited by governments, they were separated by natural course as they migrated to various places i mentioned above,some were splited by colonial masters during the colonization era,and some vuluntarily decided on their own and leave. so let there be no mistake about who will fall into unmerciful hand of islam in the north, not at this time,and not at all.

    repondre message

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