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Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
October 27, 2004
The death toll continues to mount in Darfur, Western Sudan, where as many as 100,000 people have died and over 2 million others have 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. Those who have been forcibly displaced face the imminent threat of violence, hunger and disease in their search for a safe haven. Their aggressors, Government-sponsored militias, have been integrated into the police and army units in Darfur and dispatched to camps for the internally displaced where they perpetrate further heinous acts against the most vulnerable.
The crisis in Darfur threatens to undermine the Naivasha peace negotiations between the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and to fuel unrest in eastern Sudan where the Government reportedly is arming militias and deploying forces in opposition-held areas. Instability in Sudan also has exacerbated tensions with neighboring states, especially northern Uganda and Eritrea, and is threatening the stability and capacity of the Government of Chad which has opened its doors to welcome more than 200,000 refugees.
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops participates in a delegation of leaders meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations, we call upon the international community to increase its pressure on the Government in Khartoum to insure the following: saving innocent lives; allowing people to return home eventually in peace and security; protecting those languishing in camps for the internally displaced and those involved in the delivery of humanitarian relief; respecting ceasefire agreements and seeking a negotiated settlement between the Government and the rebel groups; and holding responsible those who perpetrated atrocities and crimes against humanity. We also urge the United Nations Security Council to provide the African Union with a clear mandate that includes the right to protect innocent civilians and that sufficient logistical and financial support be provided by the international community to ensure the achievement of this mission.
Our faith calls us to protect human life. We believe that every person is created in the image of God. We cannot stand aside when human life is threatened.
We call upon Catholics and all people of good will to do everything they can to help bring an end to the reign of terror confronting our brothers and sisters in Sudan.
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