The Bishops of Sudan have asked the United Nations and the international community to pressure the government of Khartoum to disarm Islamic militias and to immediately intervene in the African nation.

“As pastors we cannot ignore the annihilation of an entire ethnic group no matter what its creed, gender or clan,” said the Sudanese bishops, referring to the dramatic crisis taking place in Darfur.

In statements made to the Fides news agency Bishop Macram Max Gassis of the Diocese of El Obeid said, “We are facing a true genocide, we’re not on the verge of a genocide, as the international community continues to insist.”

Reports indicate the violence carried out by Islamic militants, backed up by the Sudanese army, against the civilian population in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of more than 30,000 people and the displacement of over one million.

The Sudanese bishops underscored that “in the last 10-15 years the Sudanese government has never acknowledged the existence of the Darfur rebellion, but it has spread the idea through the media that the unrest in Darfur has been caused by bandits and street gangs.”

Likewise the bishops said that the militants “could not have bought sophisticated weapons and munitions.  First of all, they do not have the funds to pay for these weapons, and second, they do not have the warplanes to be able to bomb the civilian population.”  The bishops also recalled that similar government-backed militant groups have operated in other regions of the country.”

“We ask the United Nations and the international community to exercise pressure on the government of Sudan not only to stop the rearming of the Islamic militants but also to disarm them and bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity,” the bishops said.

“If the government of Khartoum does not want to assume its own responsibilities, then we ask the international community to intervene immediately.  Time is a crucial factor in order to save valuable and innocent lives,” they added.

Lastly, the bishops called on the government to open the doors to humanitarian agencies to assist the civilian population, and they asked that both sides “sit down at the negotiating table to find a solution.”