WASHINGTON (BP)–Sudan’s 18-year civil war not only has resulted in a death toll of more than 2 million, persecution and the kidnapping and rape of countless youth, but also the spread of HIV-AIDS, Clement Janda, past president of the Sudan Council of Churches and current head of the All African Conference of Churches, said April 26 in Washington.
Janda was addressing a meeting to build awareness of the horrors in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, hosted by the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention (LCBFMC), USA, one of seven predominantly African American groups belonging to the Baptist World Alliance.
Recounting that slavery has been the most troubling aspect of the war involving Sudan’s predominantly Christian south and the Dinka tribe versus the mostly Muslim north, Janda said government-backed militias continuously raid and kidnap thousands of children who then are routinely raped, given new names and indoctrinated to hate non-Muslims.
Janda said civil wars throughout Africa are, in fact, directly responsible for much of the spread of HIV-AIDS, which is in epidemic proportion on the continent. Young people are trained to fight and given cocaine and other drugs, fueling them toward rape and thus spreading HIV-AIDS.
The Sudanese government wants to push the Dinka people from their region and create a new Muslim state, Janda also noted. “They want to depopulate the area which has much oil and uranium [in order to] buy more arms,” he said.
For many years before the government’s destabilization policies, Muslims and Christians basically lived in peace in both northern and southern Sudan. Now, he said, Christians in the north are severely persecuted. Police in Khartoum on Good Friday, for example, invaded all of the Episcopal parishes with tear gas and made various arrests, Janda reported.
“The church in the north is very much under stress,” Janda said. “The government does not allow the church to build new churches or to repair damaged ones. Church people are restricted in travel, and church visitors are vetted [investigated] while the Muslims are free to work and travel wherever they want.” In the south, he said, the Christians are free, and Muslims who live in the south do not face similar persecution.
Janda said Sudan’s ruling Muslims do not want coexistence and are prepared “to wipe out the people.”
“It is a movement of power,” Janda said. “They say that Christianity, capitalism and communism have all failed and now it is time for Muslims to rule.”
While efforts to redeem Sudanese slaves have received extensive publicity and many Christians have been involved in such initiatives — sometimes reuniting children with their families — Janda argued that the incentive for money fuels the kidnappers’ exploits. (A New York Times editorial April 27 likewise noted that the financial incentive of slave redemption encourages the taking of slaves, and the knowledge that foreigners with deep pockets are willing to pay to redeem slaves reduces the incentive for owners to set them free without payment.)
Janda outlined three ways the international Christian community can address the Sudanese crisis:
1) Call for the exploitation of oil to stop. The area in southern Sudan that the government is targeting can enable the government to buy arms and continue the war using profits from exploiting the oil- and uranium-rich area, Janda said.
2) Pressure the Sudanese government to declare a “no-fly zone” in areas of the south that are constantly bombarded by the Sudanese air force. “They bomb at any time,” Janda said, “and so there are no schools or hospitals because they have been destroyed.”
3) Pressure the government to accept an agreement between the government and the Sudanese liberation army in the south to give the right of self-determination to the southern Sudanese. Neither army has been able to defeat the other, Janda said. “They need to negotiate for peace.”