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Nuncio in Sudan: Situation in Darfur improving

Catholic World News - January 25, 2010

Archbishop Leo Boccardi, apostolic nuncio in Sudan and Eritrea, has observed that the situation in Darfur is improving.

“The humanitarian emergency that some feared when the government in Khartoum expelled several NGOs from the western region has not come to pass,” he said. “They have been replaced by Arab NGOs and there is a process of people's return to their villages.”

Archbishop Boccardi added:

The phase of military confrontation now seems to be overcome, as has also been confirmed by the leaders of the joint peacekeeping force of the UN-African Union, and the confrontation has shifted to the political plain, with the ongoing negotiations in Doha among the Khartoum government and representatives of guerrilla movements and civil society in Darfur.

Of course, a certain degree of insecurity still remains, but this comes not so much from military action, as from the presence of bandits, who have found an easy source of income in the abduction of aid workers and Western officials.

Archbishop Boccardi also expressed his satisfaction at the progress of the Church in southern Sudan, including the creation of a Catholic university and the rebuilding of a seminary.

Two million lost their lives in the long Sudanese civil war (1983-2005) between the Muslim north and the largely animist and Christian south. The civil war ended when President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir granted the south limited autonomy. Since 2005, the nation’s five million Catholics have fallen under two sets of religion laws. In the north, all schools-- even Christian schools-- must offer instruction in Islam, and converts from Islam to Christianity face not only criminal charges but also death at the hands of their families. In the south, Christians enjoy religious freedom.

Nonetheless, the nuncio noted that Catholics have freedom of worship, even in the north. “Even in Khartoum, the Catholic community is alive and there are no particular impediments for Catholics in living their faith.”

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