We, Church Leaders in New Zealand, are gravely concerned at the terrible tragedy developing in Darfur, Western Sudan; a disaster that the United Nations has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Over 1.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring Chad. All are completely dependent on international assistance for the basic necessities of life - water, food, sanitation, shelter, and protection.
Conditions in the camps are harsh and people will need ongoing assistance as they deal with the loss of family members, destruction of homes and food crops, disruption of education, trauma of sexual violence and torture, loss of belongings and a lack of health services and infrastructure in their places of refuge - all amidst continuing fear of attack. There are fears that the situation, if not urgently addressed, will echo the Rwanda genocide with the elimination of African ethnic groups by Sudanese government-backed Arab militias.
We commend the New Zealand government for its support towards relief efforts and the people of New Zealand for their generous response to the humanitarian appeals to date. The scale of the situation is such that substantial funding is needed. Christian World Service and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand are jointly appealing for donations for ongoing emergency assistance in Darfur and Chad.
The New Zealand churches, through Christian World Service and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand have for many years been actively involved in supporting the activities of the New Sudan Council of Churches working for peace, providing assistance to refugees and displaced persons and reconciling war-torn communities.
The suffering and violence in Sudan has been going on for too long. Effective international action is needed to support and advance conflict resolution efforts. We call upon the New Zealand government to ensure the Sudan crisis is addressed effectively at the international level, through the United Nations and other international bodies, so that:
We ask the people of New Zealand to show compassion and generosity towards those in need in Darfur and Chad. Contributions to the joint Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Christian World Service (CWS) appeal can be made by contacting:
Box 22652, Christchurch, 0800 74 73 72
PO Box 12-193, Wellington 0800 22 10 22
Signed 2 August 2004
The Most Revd Whakahuihui Vercoe
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
National Administrator, Baptist Churches of New Zealand
President, Methodist Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop of Wellington and Metropolitan of New Zealand
Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army - New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga