Captors release Darfur emergency workers
Kidnappers in Sudan have released three Darfur emergency programme workers after a week of captivity. The men were returned safely home to their families at the end of last week, says Independent Catholic News.
The men, Salah Idris, Ahmed Abubaker Musa and Salim Mohammed Salim, who work for the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), were taken at gunpoint after visiting the Zam Zam camp on Friday 30 September. It is believed that they were taken by militia forces. The car they were travelling in was also taken and has yet to be returned.
On the day of their capture the UK-based agencies CAFOD(Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) and Christian Aid joined with five other international agencies to send an appeal to all the parties involved in the Abuja peace talks to secure the immediate, safe and unconditional release of the three SUDO staff.
The letter (signed by senior representatives of Church World Service, CAFOD, Trocaire, Christian Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, Dan Church Aid and Lutheran World Relief) called for all the warring parties in Darfur to abide by international humanitarian law not to target civilians and to end all harassment, arbitrary arrest or obstruction of agencies carrying out humanitarian work.
Recent days have seen a worrying resumption in violence against the people of Darfur with attacks on villages and camps leaving scores dead. The continuing conflict has made it impossible for the vast majority of the displaced - over two million people - to return to their homes.
CAFOD Conflict Policy Analyst Amelia Bookstein commented: "We are greatly relieved that the three SUDO staff are now safely back with their families. However we would take this opportunity to call upon the warring parties to guarantee the safely of all civilians and humanitarian workers around Darfur. The last few weeks have seen a sharp rise in harassment and violence against aid workers."
The SUDO staff are part of an ACT/Caritas emergency response programme reaching around 500,000 people. CAFOD is a leading member of the programme which is funded by members of the Action by Churches Together, a global network of Protestant and Orthodox development agencies and Caritas Internationalis the family of Catholic aid agencies.
Estimates for Darfuri Africans killed by government forces and militia since February 2003 range from 180,000 to 400,000. Over 2.5 million people have been displaced and remain at mortal risk, facing continued violence, malnutrition and disease, say US and British development agencies.
In June and July 2005 Sojourners (headed up by the Rev Jim Wallis), Cedar Ridge Community Church, Africa Action, Genocide Intervention Fund and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in the USA organised a series of five worship vigils in Washington DC highlighting the Darfur situation. The action was called Worship for Justice.
Leading NGOs and church groups in the United States and France have been urging United Nations mandated peace enforcement operations in Darfur, Sudan. Protect Darfur (UK), backed by 118 members of parliament, is also a partner in the initiative.