Caritas Internationalis fears that a full scale war is imminent between Sudan and South Sudan with dire humanitarian consequences for both unless there is pull back from further military action.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan last July following a popular vote. It was the culmination of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended decades of war.
However, areas of contention including border demarcation, the status of disputed areas in Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile and oil rights still have not been resolved.
The Caritas confederation of over 160 Catholic aid agencies fears that recent clashes over these issues have now brought the two countries to the brink.
Caritas is also concerned over the use of extreme rhetoric by officials and that it is inciting an environment of fear. Attacks in Sudan on Christians such as the ransacking of the Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum on Saturday are deeply troubling.
Over 500,000 South Sudanese live in Sudan. Relations at a community level between the predominately Muslim Sudanese and the Christian South Sudanese remains good.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy says, “Caritas appeals to Sudan and South Sudan to stop military actions along the border. It’s not too late for both governments to check the momentum leading to an all out war. Peace can only be achieved by returning to the negotiating table and fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
“The international community has failed to act decisively to prevent an escalation towards war. They must follow through with their commitments to ensure all outstanding issues are resolved peacefully.
“Two million people died in the last war. Everyone will be losers in another conflict. Our belief is that the peoples of Sudan and South Sudan want peace. Their governments and the international community achieved great things in ending the war, they cannot allow those gains to be lost.
“Both sides must exercise restraint. They have a duty to all their people and must ensure their safety. This includes refraining from inflammatory language that incites violence against minorities.
“Caritas Internationalis stands in solidarity with the people of Sudan and South Sudan. We are committed to supporting the efforts of the Church at providing humanitarian assistance and fostering peace between the nations.”
Caritas Internationalis is looking for more details after Sudanese security forces closed the offices of its member SudanAid and partner SCC in Nyala, Darfur. Sudan Aid and SCC are part of relief efforts for 500,000 people in Darfur providing food, clean water, healthcare and other aid.
Caritas organisations have operations in Sudan and South Sudan, including pre-emergency planning to cope with the fallout from a return to fighting with its large displacement of people.
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