In a breakthrough to find a solution to the lasting war in Sudan between the government and Christian and animist secessionist forces in the South (2 million victims over the past 20 years, many of them dying from war-related famine), a framework for peace talks signed on July 20 agreed that the constitution would be rewritten to ensure that Islamic sharia would only be applied in the North.
The agreement should not be overestimated, since it is not the first deal, and rebels claimed ten days later that governmental forces had launched an offensive. It is however worth noticing that religious forces might also become increasingly involved in efforts toward peace. However, according to a news update on July 23 from Douglas Johnston of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy [ICRD] in Washington, who is himself involved in peace efforts in Sudan, “there appears to be a willingness to compromise on important issues, where there has been no give whatsoever in the past.”
The war in Sudan cannot be reduced to a Christian-Muslim conflict, as it is sometimes presented; a number of other major factors are involved, including a war for the control of resources. But religion plays a role too. Christian and Muslim leaders met in Khartoum in July under the auspices of ICRD, the Sudan Council of Churches, and the Sudan International People’s Friendship Council, with participation of government’s representatives.
“Thus far, preliminary agreement has been obtained from the government of Sudan to involve religious leaders in the peace process. The next step will involve securing similar agreement from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for this same initiative,” Johnston reports. There will also be efforts to obtain from both sides the guarantee of freedom of movement for religious leaders to perform their duties in the zones of conflict and the protection of holy sites.
— By Jean-François Mayer
(International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, 1156 Fifteenth Street, N. W., Suite 910, Washington, D. C. 20005, http://www.icrd.org)