Sudan’s bishops issue pastoral letter on southern secession
Catholic World News - July 28, 2010
Sudan’s bishops have issued a pastoral letter on the January 2011 referendum that will determine whether the southern part of the nation secedes and forms a new nation.
Noting that the government in Khartoum has failed to adhere to the pre-referendum timetable, which includes voter registration, the bishops said on July 22 that “in the event that [the continued] unity of Sudan is the legitimate outcome of the process, we call for a change of heart among those in power, to bring about a unity embracing all, in a just, free and open society, where the human dignity of every citizen is safeguarded and respected.”
“In the event that the people of southern Sudan choose secession, we call upon those in power to ensure good neighborly relations and a smooth and peaceful transition.”
“We call upon our brothers and sisters and all people of good will to pray earnestly for a peaceful and fruitful referendum,” the bishops added. “May the God of Justice and Truth guide us all at this momentous time.”
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-- who came to power in a 1989 military coup-- 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.
About 70% of the nation’s 37.2 million people are Sunni Muslims; 15% are Catholics. The northern portion of the country is populated largely by Muslims and the south by Christians and followers of traditional animist faiths.
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