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Humanitarian Tragedy In The Sudan

03 August 2004

Church Leaders Statement On The Humanitarian Tragedy In The Sudan

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:

The Government of the Sudan genuinely disarms the militia groups in West Sudan and prevents attacks on innocent civilians; The Government of the Sudan provides full access to humanitarian groups into Darfur and makes Government resources available for the delivery of aid; The United Nations and/or the African Union considers all options of providing protection for refugees and relief workers and monitors ceasefire violations and human rights abuse; The ceasefire in South Sudan holds and a permanent peace agreement can be reached that is not at the expense of a just solution in Darfur.

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 appeal can be made by contacting:

Signed 2 August 2004

Whakahuihui Vercoe, Archbishop, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Kelvyn Fairhall, National Administrator, Baptist Churches of New Zealand

Lynne Frith, President, Methodist Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Michael Thawley, Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Thomas Williams, Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop of Wellington and Metropolitan of New Zealand

Garth McKenzie, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army - New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga

ENDS

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