Sudan’s Bishops appeal to international community to help stop war

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In a collective statement on the situation in war-torn Sudan, the country’s Catholic Bishops appeal to the international community to intensify efforts to end the violence in the country. They also express concern that the protracted fighting may aim to block solidarity between the people of Sudan.

By Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

The leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is on a regional tour aiming to garner support in brokering a ceasefire in his country’s almost nine-month war, in which more than 12,000 people have died and almost 7 million have been displaced.

The war in Sudan erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF. The violence began in the capital, Khartoum, and has since spread throughout the nation with allegations of widespread human rights abuses and war crimes.

Pope Francis has repeatedly appealed for a negotiated solution to the conflict, and during his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day, he recalled the suffering of the people of Sudan and asked the international community not to forget them.

“Let us not forget the tensions and conflicts that trouble the region of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Sudan,” the Pope said.

Catholic Bishops’ appeal

In a collective statement, the Catholic Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan urge the UN, the US, the UK and Norway – also referred to as the Troika – and other members of the international community to intensify their respective efforts to end the ongoing violence in Sudan.

The bishops also call for the continuation of “necessary support” to those affected by the violence.

In the statement that was circulated on 26 December, the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference decry the situation in Sudan, saying, “The conflict is causing massive destruction of human lives, property and livelihoods to the surprise of many, who never expected such an unfortunate situation to unfold in Sudan.”

The conflict is the result of a power struggle between the generals that head the army and a paramilitary group following the ousting of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir and the agreement between Sudan’s Military and civilian authorities on a framework deal that provided for the transition to a civilian government.

Highlighting the plight of the civilians caught in the conflict, the bishops lament the “challenges of the people of God in Darfur and Kordofan”, where they say “villages have been burned to the ground, leaving citizens with no shelter and accommodation.”

Political manoeuvres

Meanwhile, the warring generals have never met face-to-face since the start of the conflict, but regional powers are reportedly scrambling to broker a meeting between RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, and Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Analysts have expressed fear that the real motive of Daglo’s diplomatic tour is to secure regional support to capture all of Sudan from the army. Last month, the RSF captured Gezira state – a breadbasket for Sudan – giving the group the clear upper hand against the army.

In October, the RSF captured several army garrisons across the sprawling western region of Darfur, just as the US-backed mediation talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, were about to resume after a lengthy hiatus.

Power of prayers

Pledging to use “different platforms” to continue to engage “the leaders of the various parties Sudan to put the interest of the people first, in their struggle for political power,” the Catholic Bishops express their faith and belief that “Our strength comes from the power of prayers, an act which raises our hope for a better tomorrow.”

In their statement, they urge the people of Sudan not to be discouraged amidst the protracted conflict, but “to trust in God who surpasses every suffering and gives a sense of hope.”

The bishops also express concern that the conflict may be an attempt to block solidarity among the people of Sudan: “We have a strong feeling that the chain of events in Sudan is an attempt to block your aspiration for a society where people live as brothers and sisters.”