U.S. bishops join delegation in pressing Annan to aid Sudan crisis

.- The international community should step up its pressure on Sudan to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur, a delegation of religious and human rights leaders told United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan Oct. 27.

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center joined Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel and other leaders in calling for a clear United Nations mandate for the African Union to protect innocent civilians, and for other financial and logistical support from the international community.

Bishop Murphy, who served as under-secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in Rome from 1980 to 1987, is a member of the International Policy Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was delegated by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the committee, to represent the USCCB at the meeting.

In a statement, the bishops called upon the international community to increase its pressure on the Sudanese government to insure that innocent lives will be saved, that people will return to their home eventually in peace and security, and that the internally displaced Sudanese in the camps and those providing humanitarian aid will be protected.

It also wants the international community to pressure the Sudanese government into respecting cease-fire agreements, seeking a negotiated settlement between the government and the rebel groups, and holding responsible those who perpetrated the crimes against humanity. 

The bishops’ statement also notes that about 100,000 people have died in Western Sudan and more than 2 million are in camps, having been forced to flee their homes.

“Local militias, armed and supported by the government in Khartoum, continue to attack villages, kill and rape innocent civilians, and pursue a scorched-earth policy leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake,” the statement said. These government-sponsored militias have been integrated into the camps’ police and army units “where they perpetrate further heinous acts against the most vulnerable.”

The bishops said the crisis also threatens to undermine the Naivasha peace negotiations between the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and has is threatening the stability and capacity in neighboring states, many of which have welcomed Sudanese refugees.

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