An ecumenical delegation of Sudanese religious leaders has met with United Nations officials and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to express its fear of what might happen if the 9 January 2011 referendum, in which south Sudan is expected to vote for independence from the north, is not carried out as planned.
"We told him we came to raise an alarm to the United Nations," said Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan during a press conference held at the Church Center for the United Nations, following a day of UN meetings earlier this week.
"We are the church, we are in the ground. We are with the people. And we are knowing every thing that is happening in the ground there. So because of that we are here," Deng said.
The ecumenical delegation was in the United States on an awareness and advocacy campaign in advance of the referendum.
The archbishop was joined at the press conference by Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Marko Kur of Khartoum; Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban of Torit; and the Rev. Ramadan Chan, General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches.
The referendum is the final provision of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 by the warring Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the south and the north's Khartoum-based Government of Sudan. The CPA ended a 21-year civil war - fought by the Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south - that killed more than 2 million people and displaced an estimated 7 million more.
"Our fear is going to come if the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is not implemented accordingly, and that is going to be disaster in the country," Deng said. "And the people that are going to die are going to be innocent. And for us at the church we are always careful and mindful for those who cannot speak for themselves."
Deng explained that there is little time left between now and 9 January, and the delegation's visit is a signal to the United Nations, those who signed the CPA and the countries that supported the CPA, that many "things" have been left undone, he said.
The northern government has been criticised for not living into the terms of the CPA, and some believe it is deliberately trying to stall the vote, or that it may try to manipulate the outcome.
"There are some fears that the referendum will not take place because the north is not happy," said Chan, the General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches.
He said: "The southerners, you know, are ready to go forward with the referendum because they feel it is a democratic chance and a constitutional chance for them to exercise their rights in determining their political destiny … so any delay is not in favour of anybody, especially the south."
"We feel that if these things are not done properly, it may take the country back to violence and war, which as churches we are not for," Chan added.
The CPA has also called for equal oil revenue sharing between north and south (oil revenues account for 95 per cent of Sudanese export revenues and 65 per cent of government revenues, according to the International Monetary Fund); fair demarcation of north-south boundaries; and resolution of citizenship issues.
With acknowledgments to the Anglican Communion News Service - http://www.aco.org/acns/