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Christian leaders lend unified support to fair and free Sudan referendum
Christian leaders are united in supporting the pending referendum in Sudan, slated on Jan. 9, 2011, saying it should be held on schedule, and be fair, free and lend due respect to the referendum’s results.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches and Dr. Geoff Tunniclifee, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance stressed the need to support Southern Sudan at this crucial time, according to PR-USA Net.
Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Catholic archbishop of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, said, in Rumbek, southern Sudan that, “Anybody trying to go against the majority… can be sure that he is turning against the will and the plan of God,” ENI News reported.
Pengo is president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. He made the statement ahead of a pending special meeting of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, ENI News said.
The referendum in Sudan is being held to determine if the majority Christian southern Sudan portion of the country would like to run as an independent nation, or remain as part of Northern Sudan, which is largely Muslim, ENI News reported.
Pengo said, “It is our hope and prayer, [that] the will of God expressed through the majority will be respected as such, as the will and plan of God,” according to ENI News
The referendum was one of the conditions agreed upon in the 2005 Naivasha Agreement, which was reached between Khartoum central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army after years of war, PR-USA Net said.
Tveit had called for a day of prayer for the country on Dec. 5. Both he and Tunnicliffe noted that hundreds of thousands of Christians who live in northern Sudan may be affected by the referendum’s outcome, PR-USA Net said.
At the same time, the two Christian leaders noted, according to PR-USA Net, that millions of Christians and Muslims are still displaced from the war, and live in dangerous parts of the country. Their plight would worsen if the referendum is delayed.
Tunnicliffe noted that for 50 years Sudan has suffered very much, and there is a need for a better way. He and Tveit said a common voice is an important step in drawing international attention, and the attention of their churches, toward the country, PR-USA Net said.
The WCC and WFA represent most of the world’s Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox churches with perhaps a billion people around the globe, PR-USA Net reported.
Tunnicliffe told PR-USA Net that if the referendum is not successful, “we are going to face an ongoing huge problem with conflict, not just in Sudan, but in the region.”
The WCC and WFA leaders also seek support from Muslim leaders and in a recently-held consultation in Geneva, some 60 Christian and Muslim heads and scholars said in their final statement of Sudan, “It is important that these tensions not be seen as being between Muslims and Christians.” PR-USA Net reported.
The Sudan Council of Churches invited recently WEA to install monitors during the referendum. WEA has long worked in Sudan through relief and development activities, according to PR-USA Net.
A separate referendum will be held in the Abyei region which has rich oil reserves, to determine if it should form part of the southern or northern part of Sudan, ENI News said.