- (Photo: Persecution Projects Foundation/Mark Weaver)
Sudanese Church leaders have lamented the "unacceptable" breakdown in relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
The concerns have been outlined in a joint letter issued ahead of South Sudan's first anniversary since gaining independence on 9 July last year. The letter has been signed by the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, His Grace Paulino Lukudu Loro, and the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Most Rev Daniel Deng Bul.
The letter addresses the alarming souring of relations between the North and South, and the Church leaders specifically call for a ceasefire and withdrawal of forces from the border region.
"Relations between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have deteriorated to unacceptable levels," they said.
"We reject war as an option to resolve disputes and call upon all parties to implement a meaningful cease-fire and withdrawal of forces from the border region."
The Archbishops urge the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the dispute over the oil-rich region of Abyei by holding a referendum as stipulated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
"Oil is a God-given resource which should benefit both resources," they say.
"We call for an agreement based on international norms for trans-shipment of oil, and for recognition of the damage done to the people of both nations by the current impasse.
"Prices are rising and there are shortages of essential commodities, including fuel, making life harder for the ordinary citizens. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency."
Turning their attention to the civil wars in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile regions, the Church leaders warn that there is "no military solution" and call upon the warring factions to "enter meaningful negotiations."
According to the UN, around 1,000 people have been murdered and a further 100,000 left destitute in brutal inter-ethnic clashes in Jonglei state.
The Archbishops praise the churches for playing a central role in peace-building among the affected communities but call for immediate humanitarian access to conflict-torn areas.
They conclude with an appeal for South Sudan and Sudan to work towards a peaceful future for both countries.
"We dream of two nations at peace with each other, cooperating to make the best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity and mutual respect, celebrating their shared history and forgiving any wrongs they may have done to each other," they say.
"We dream of people no longer traumatised, of children who can go to school, of mothers who can attend clinics, of an end to poverty and malnutrition, and of Christians and Muslims who can attend church or mosque freely without fear. We call on the governments of both countries to work towards making that dream a reality."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has backed the Church leaders' call for peace and humanitarian assistance.
He spoke of his particular concern over the demolition of St John's Church, in Hai Baraka, Khartoum, in Sudan, by government authorities last month.
Dr Williams called for an investigation into the demolition, and for religious freedom to be upheld.
"The first anniversary of the new nation of South Sudan gives an opportunity for renewed effort towards achieving peaceful relations between Sudan and South Sudan," he said.
"The new nation was created with the support of both South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan, and the well-being of both countries depends on their mutual co-operation.
"I strongly endorse the joint appeal which the Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Juba have made on this significant anniversary