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Sudanese Bishops warn violence set to escalate

Sudan's Catholic bishops have warned that efforts to bring peace to the south of the country could be frustrated by the situation in the western province of Darfur.

The Universe reports that as an outbreak of the deadly disease hepatitis E exacerbated the dire situation in Darfur, where more than a million people have been forced into refugee camps due to violent attacks by Janjaweed militia groups, the bishops said the deteriorating position there was now threatening the uneasy peace in the south of the country, where the Muslim-dominated government has been engaged in a brutal civil war against Christian rebels.

The auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum Daniel Adwok told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that he had received reports that rebel army chiefs were now increasingly reluctant to share power with the government, and there were real dangers that violence could return in the south.

Bishop Adwok added that he had been horrified by a visit to southern Darfur.

"The people are in such deep trouble," he said. "It is so difficult for them to find the very basics they need, such as simple food and water."

Meanwhile the Missionary News Agency (MISNA) says Sudan's bishops have sent a 13-paragraph statement to the United Nations, the international community, the Sudanese government and the two rebel movements, SLA-M (Sudan's Liberation Army-Movement) and JEM (Justice and Equality Movement).

Titled Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Sudan on the Critical Situation in Darfur, it says: "Already in the last one and a half years, about 35,000 people have lost their lives and it is predicted that this number will increase in the days to come due to the obstruction of relief agencies from saving the population."

They go on to suggest Sudanese Government complicity, noting that the Janjaweed militia could not have purchased sophisticated weapons and ammunition themselves, as they do not have the funds, and "they do not have bomber planes to hurl bombs on the innocent civilians".

The bishops call on the UN and the international community to "exert pressure on the Government of Sudan not only to halt arming the Janjaweed but also to immediately disarm them and bring the perpetrators to justice," adding that "if the Government of Khartoum is reluctant to assume this responsibility, then we appeal to the international community to intervene immediately".

Violence in Sudan is set to escalate (The Universe)
Darfur: Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Sudan (Missionary Service News Agency 25/8/04)

Darfur: Rebels reject talks agenda, but will negotiate (Missionary Service News Agency 25/8/04)
Letter to Secretary Powell on Crisis in Sudan (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 23/8/04)
Aid agency says Straw must increase pressure on Sudan (Independent Catholic News 25/8/04)
Straw must increase pressure on Sudan (Ekklesia 25/8/04)
Scottish cardinal heads Sudan briefing (Independent Catholic News 24/8/04)
American bishop writes to Colin Powell over Sudan crisis (Independent Catholic News 23/8/04)
Missionaries say people in Sudan, Chad embrace Catholic faith (Catholic News Service 20/8/04)
U.S. priest who served 8 years in Sudan said he saw abuses of Islam (Catholic News Service 20/8/04)
Direct involvement by U.S. necessary for resolution of crisis in Darfur, says bishop (Catholic News Agency 19/8/04)
U.S. Bishops Urged to Collect Aid for Sudanese (Zenit 18/8/04)

26 Aug 2004