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Statement on the Crisis in Western Sudan


Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy 
May 5, 2004 

The Darfur region of Sudan is rapidly becoming the newest symbol of human depravity and ethnic cleansing. Without greater attention and action by the international community, the world risks being a passive witness to yet another humanitarian catastrophe. 

Since 2003, tens of thousands have died, and more than a million have been displaced. Together with the Sudanese military, government-backed militias are attacking innocent civilians, raping women and young girls, destroying homes and fields, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching millions of people in desperate need in what appears to be an ethnic cleansing of the region. Janjaweed militias and similar groups are reportedly attacking refugee camps and committing other atrocities in Sudan and neighboring Chad. Meanwhile, an April 8, 2004 ceasefire agreement between the Khartoum government and the two main rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has not been observed. Human rights abuses have been committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Sudanese church leaders have called for an end to attacks on civilians and the government's support for militias in the region, unconditional humanitarian access, and a commitment by all parties to an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated settlement. 

We are encouraged by the efforts of the Bush administration to bring greater attention to this crisis, as demonstrated most recently by its resolution condemning ethnic cleansing at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. We pray that the United States, working with the international community, will respond effectively to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and will continue to press the Sudanese government to end the violence and seek a negotiated solution to this conflict. We urge the international community to provide greater protection for displaced persons and refugees in the region and consider third country resettlement for the most vulnerable. In addition, the government of Chad must play a more constructive role in the promotion of a political settlement. Unless and until the conflict in Darfur is brought to an end, the peace process in southern Sudan cannot achieve its long-sought goals of peace, stability, and respect for the fundamental human rights and dignity of all Sudanese. 

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