The central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has urged WCC member churches, particularly those with direct links with the Sudan, "to continue and intensify their efforts to encourage and support the unified peace initiatives" by Church organisations in the north and south which are seeking to bring peace to the beleaguered African country.
Since 1983 more than three million people have been killed in Sudan's civil war. Five million have been displaced inside the country and another 500,000 forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, especially in Kenya and Uganda. The war, in which the predominantly Christian and animist southern Sudanese have been struggling for autonomy from the mainly Islamic north, has divided churches in the north and the south.
However, leaders of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), based in Khartoum and representing Churches in the north, and the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), representing Churches in the south, last year signed a common position paper: "United we stand in action for peace".
The paper, which WCC officials said constituted a solid basis for broad ecumenical action, has since been presented by Church delegations to the faction leaders in the south and to the government of Sudan in the north.
In its statement agreed at the meeting, the central committee gave its backing to the common position paper by the SCC and NSCC and highlighted the "principles elaborated by the Sudanese Church leaders upon which a just and meaningful peace in Sudan must be built", which included "freedom of religious expression, worship and witness" and the "acceptance of cultural, linguistic and social diversity".
The central committee also called on warring factions in the south of the country and the government of Sudan to issue an immediate cease-fire. Only a cease-fire could ensure a climate "conducive to serious discussions" among the Sudanese and lead to a peaceful end to the conflict, the WCC said.