Paul Nantulya, CRS’ technical advisor for peacebuilding in Sudan, sends in this field report.
From March 23 – 26, an historic event took place in Juba with CRS’ assistance: the Sudanese Church Leaders Forum. More than 60 leaders from Sudan’s various Christian churches came together under the umbrella of the Sudan Council of Churches to unify their voice and vision for promoting peace. They were joined by Muslim clerics, government officials and church officials from other African countries. Members from CRS’ Africa Justice and Peace Working Group which has been accompanying this process were there to provide support.
It was incredible to watch these leaders from all regions of Sudan discuss crucial issues and quickly come to agreement. The last time church leaders met in a forum like this was in 2002 when they set forth a comprehensive agenda for peace which informed many of the protocols of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that in January, 2005, ended Sudan’s second major civil war.
Five years later, the Sudanese Church Leaders Forum provided a venue for the Sudanese Church to officially reprise its mandate of reconciliation in Sudan. At the request of the Government of Southern Sudan, the church is restarting its “People-to-People” peace and reconciliation process.
And it’s off to an inspiring beginning. In the forum communiqué, the Sudan Council of Churches outlined recommendations for addressing contentious issues in Sudan and called for peaceful elections, an end to violence in Sudan, and the full and peaceful implementation of the CPA.
CRS will work with Catholic dioceses and other partners in the north and south to fine tune plans to drive implementation. Many of the church leaders who were involved in the old People-to-People process are providing advice and hands-on experience. Next on the agenda is a spring summit among church leaders, government leaders and other political forces to address conflicts in the south and other areas of Sudan.
At the forum, we learned that the Sudanese Church mediated a record 30 local peace agreements during the last civil war. What an experience it was to learn about the techniques they used firsthand. And what an Easter gift it is for the Church to recommit to its critical peacebuilding role.
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