Sudan

South African bishop heads ecumenical peace forum on Sudan

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Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - South African Catholic Bishop Kevin Dowling, known at home and abroad for his commitment to justice and peace, has been chosen to chair the Sudan Ecumenical Forum whose advocacy office, Sudan Focal Point, is based in South Africa.

The forum, which brings together Sudanese churches and their international partners to work for peace in Sudan, held its annual assembly in South Africa this week to discuss the role of the church in peace efforts in Sudan.

"I hope to build on the firm foundations already established by the worldwide church network to bring about a deepening of solidarity in the quest for peace, which will be the fruit of justice," Dowling said in response to his nomination.

The forum featured presentations from several South African speakers, including Yasmin Sooka who shared the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Farid Esack who led a panel discussion on the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and Molefe Tsele who highlighted the role of South African churches.

As Sudan faces the prospect of a shaky peace for the first time in 20 years of devastating civil war, reconciliation between enemies and between different faiths will be a priority, the forum noted.

Jesse Duarte, who addressed the meeting on behalf of the South African government, fielded questions on the role Pretoria can play in supporting peace, justice and democracy in Sudan, both directly and through the African Union.

In a communiqué, the forum welcomed the progress made in peace talks on the Sudanese conflict, but expressed doubts about the commitment of the parties in view of cease-fire violations and other transgressions.

The forum expressed concern about the lack of transparency and the prevailing culture of violence and impunity.

It made recommendations for the expansion of the peace process to include civil society and other warring parties, and the need for credible international monitoring and guarantees.

It called for the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Sudan, and reiterated the southern Sudanese demand that oil production and exploration cease until a comprehensive peace agreement has been achieved.

The forum drew particular attention to the situation of the "marginalised areas" such as Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the Funj Region.

Pan African News Agency
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