Persecuted bishop asks for international help so that Sudanese can decide their own future

One of the symbols of religious persecution in Sudan, Bishop Macram Max Gassis of Obeid, is calling on the international community to look after the self-determination of various regions of the country as the various factions of country are close to a peace agreement.

“The attention of the international community must continue to stay highly focused on Sudan, especially since a peace agreement appears imminent,” said Bishop Gassis in statements to Fides.

The bishop revealed he had sent a letter to Karl Rove, special council to US President George Bush, “to bring to the attention of the American government, which is pressuring for an agreement to be reached soon, to the unresolved question of the status of three regions, Nuba, Abiey, and southern Nilo Azul.  It has not been decided yet whether these regions will be under the SPLA/M or under the government.

The SPLA/M is the People’s National Army of Liberation Movement of Sudan, which has been fighting the government of Jartum for decades to reestablish the self-determination of peoples of southern Sudan.

According to Fides, “after years of war and at least 2 million deaths, the government and the guerillas have reached a military agreement that calls for the removal of government troops from southern Sudan and the eventual incorporation of SPLA/M soldiers into the national army, in order to form a new united military force.”

Both sides have reached a political agreement that calls for a referendum in seven years on self-determination for the southern regions of the country.

Bishop Gassis explained that “in the letter sent to Washington I state that any peace agreement that excludes the aspirations and hopes of the peoples of these areas will lead to the assimilation of these peoples into the northern Arab population, which will put the very peace agreements in danger.”

For this reason, he denounced the government of Jartum for “playing with words,” saying, “When the fate of the three regions in question is discussed, the government makes no reference to the ‘right of self-determination’ but rather speaks of ‘consultation with the people’. The international conventions on human rights on the other hand make explicit reference to the right of self-determination,” he said.

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