UN Advocacy Week Ends with Peacemaking Discussion on Sudan

The last focal point of the World Council of Churches (WCC) UN Advocacy Week was placed on peacemaking works in regions of crises around the world. Speakers took particular note of the current situation in Sudan where extended civil war in the South and genocide in the West have left millions dead and many more stranded.

"Moral outrage and fear everywhere" define the current situation in Sudan, said keynote speaker Jan Egeland, the Humanitarian Relief coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Although the signs of crisis in Sudan were present many months beforehand, the international response was "too little, too late" he said.

"The threshold for intervention should not be the declaration of genocide. Humanitarian relief and intervention actions should happen much before the situation arrives at that level of crisis," said Ernie Regehr of the WCC's Churches Commission on International Affairs (CCIA).

Seminar moderator Shirley deWolf, a member of the CCIA Commission, explained the importance of building churches that can remain in the crisis-stricken country long after immediate aid has been dispersed.

Panelist Ørnulf Steen, general secretary of the Christian Council of Norway and a member of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, agreed, saying capacity-building is as critical to achieving lasting peace as it is for the ongoing work of reconciliation.

The Sudan Ecumenical Forum was created in 1994 to provide a “shared platform for advocacy between the churches of Sudan and partner churches, church-related agencies and ecumenical councils in Africa, Europe and North America.:

"Women and children suffer disproportionately in Sudan's crisis, and the deep levels of abuse and trauma they have experienced will not be addressed by a written peace agreement signed in a distant city. Churches must think about how to address this issue," commented another panelist, Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service.

Just days after the WCC meeting in New York, the UN Security Council met with Sudan’s Khartoum government and the Southern rebels to delegate a peace treaty between the two factions. While the signing of the peace treaty, which set a Dec 31. deadline to end the 21-year war, was a hopeful sign for peace, many leaders expressed concern over the plan’s implementation.