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Sudanese church leaders advocacy delegation
meets with U.S. church leaders in New York

New York, October 14, 2010 -- Sudanese church leaders met Wednesday with officials of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service to warn that the safety and human rights of millions of Sudanese continue to be in jeopardy, despite hopes raised by a referendum slated for January 9 on a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) to end a decades-old civil war.

The Sudanese church leaders expressed skepticism that the referendum will be carried out as planned, or that it will solve the nation's problems brought on by years of bloodshed.

And they warned that "the safety and human rights (including the right to freedom of religion) of southerners living in northern Sudan are in jeopardy before, during and after the referendum."

The Sudanese civil war, waged since 1983, has claimed more than 2 million lives and has displaced more than 4 million people.

Among the U.S. church leaders hosting the Sudanese leaders' Advocacy Visit to The Interchurch Center in Manhattan were the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director and CEO of Church World Service; and Bishop Johncy Itty, Church World Service board chair.

The U.S. leaders supported their Sudanese colleagues as they called upon the United Nations to "hold all parties and guarantors of the CPA accountable." 

Kinnamon noted that the NCC has for years supported measures to end the killing in the Sudan's Darfur region where upwards of 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been forced to flee when their homes came under the cross fire between government-sponsored militias and black Christian and animist Africans. Sudan's president, Omar Bashir, has been accused of war crimes in connection with the Darfur situation.

But Kinnamon noted that the NCC concern for the area goes beyond Darfur and extends to all Sudan.

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, is chair of the Darfur Coalition.

"While this coalition started as a Darfur organization because of the genocide, our mission has evolved into an all-Sudan policy, including the CPA and the upcoming referendum," Kinnamon said. "The coalition remains the most effective advocacy group on Sudan-related issues."

Following the meeting with Sudanese church leaders, Kinnamon said, "Our colleagues have stressed that the situation in their country continues to be deadly, despite the fact that the issue is no longer prominent in our media. The 36 member communions that make up the NCC and Church World Service want to make it clear that we support our sisters and brothers during this difficult and unpredictable period."

A resolution on Sudan approved by the NCC governing board (February 2002) and the Church World Service board of directors (October 2001) calls upon member communions to "assist and work with the Sudan Council of Churches ... to build a comprehensive and lasting grass-roots-led peace and promotion of religious tolerance among Christians, Muslims and those practicing African Traditional Religions."

The resolution also calls on churches to advocate before U.S. government officials "to ensure (U.S.) policy fully incorporates the human rights of all Sudanese and the rights of southern Sudanese to self-determination, free from the terror of the constant civil war."

Kinnamon said U.S. church leaders support President Obama's diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in the Sudan. "We strongly encourage him to increase U.S. peace efforts in the Sudan so that the situation will not begin to fall apart."

Sudanese church leaders who came to New York are: Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, Anglican Primate of Sudan; Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban; Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Khartoum; the Rev. Ramadan Chan, Secretary General of the Sudan Council of Churches; the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, Ecumenical Special Envoy to Sudan and former general secretary of the World Council of Churches; John Ashworth, Advisor to Sudan Ecumenical Forum; and Rocco Blume, Christian Aid.

The Sudanese leaders called upon the United Nations and the international community to "listen to and respect the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the suffering people of southern Sudan in the transitional areas, as expressed by the church."

For more information, contact John Ashworth, ashworth.john@gmail.com,                         


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell), pjenks@ncccusa.org

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