SUDAN WATCH: Interviews: Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum - Bishop Paride Taban of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Interviews: Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum - Bishop Paride Taban of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan

Archbishop of Khartoum
Photo: Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum

In an interview January 2005, the Cardinal of Khartoum said:

"The Government of Sudan set themselves the target of getting Christianity out of the country by the year 2000. We have foiled their plan ... so far."

However, the cardinal is quick to point out that the struggle for the Church's survival is still far from won. He says of the militant forces influential within Sudan's regime:

"To drive us out still remains the objective of our oppressors."

Also, the cardinal says countries seeking a deal with President Bashir of Sudan over Darfur risk becoming victims of a publicity stunt by the government. He believes the Bashir government wants to whip up public outrage about Darfur to intimidate rivals and enemies and silence them in the face of Sudanese oppression.

He adds: "The government want to send out a message to the opposition groups in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan that the whole world is against them but they are not going to back down."

Further reading:

February 18, 2005: John Pontifex the press officer of Aid to the Church in Need reflects on a visit to the town of Wau in war torn Sudan prior to the peace accord signed in early 2005 with Australian journalist Elizabeth Dougherty - Two million dead in a land of pain and misery.
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Sudan: Economy used for genocide - Bishop Torit appealed for help in 2002

Bishop Paride Taban of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan visited Aid to the Church in Need in Koenigstein, Germany. Here are some excerpts from an interview by Christine du Coudray (June 6, 2002) - published online July 12, 2002.

[Note, in the interview he explained he'd asked the international community to withdraw from the drilling from the oil until peace comes because, he says: "we see, that oil is not a blessing for our people. We as the Church are united for the cause of peace of Sudan. Up to now only the politicians are involved, they leave the very people, who are to decide of their rights always kept aside. Religion and government should be separated in order to take away the Islamic law. At present there is not respect for the people of the South. They only are black slaves."]

Bishop Paride Taban of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan
Photo: Bishop Paride Taban of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan, who says "We as a Church know that neither the Sudan government nor the SPLA shall win the war".

"Religion and government should be separated in order to take away the Islamic law", he says.

Here are some excerpts from the Q&A interview, mentioned above:

Interviewer's question (Q). Does it mean today that the oil production is the main reason of this genocide?

Bishop Taban's answer (A): It is one of the most important reasons that should immediately be stopped: because now the population of Upper Nile is going to be wiped out. Another reason is that now the government has enough money from the revenue of the oil, which is used to purchase sophisticated weapons. Previously the government was asking money from other Islamic fundamentalist countries like Iran, Iraq.

Q. Why should the population in these areas disappear?

A. The Dutch have to clear the area for the oil company and I feel that these people are also supporting the rebels. So, they only think to clear the area, they are not interested in the population. They are interested in the land, which has got oil.

Q. Do you think that the silence or the lack of interest, surrounding the situation is due to the fact that companies from different Western countries are involved in this oil production?

A. Everybody is after economy, thinking of economy but they don't think about the life of people. We had last year a meeting with the "Talisman" and told them to withdraw. They said, well, they are having a development. We objected, that we did not see any development in that area.

Q. What is "Talisman"?

A. An organisation from Canada, an oil company. We told them to stop and to wait until peace comes back for continuing. And we know, that there are other companies from Malaysia, China ... We have warned them, we have asked them, we have appealed to their governments through other Bishop Conferences like in America, Canada to convince them for these companies to be stopped.

Q. What is happening now regarding your diocese, which is caught between the government of Khartoum and the rebels of Uganda, called the Lord's Resistance army?

A. It is ridiculous to see the very government of Sudan who arms the Lord Resistance Army and gives them very sophisticated weapons, even those anti tanks, to invite the Uganda defence people forces to come and attack the Lord's Resistance Army inside the Sudan ... Many people lost their lives already. In the diocese of Torit now nearly 9.000 families have been displaced by the Lord's Resistance Army and in May alone, they have killed nearly 500 people. The war between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Uganda People Defence Forces is going on in my own diocese. And the victims are my people, that's why we are appealing to the international community to help us because we are helpless. Also the OLS (Operation Life Sudan at the UN) gave this place as a place very dangerous, it means that no envoy is allowed to go there. It is only the Diocese of Torit, which is committed to the life of the people, which can work in that area. We thank CRS (Catholic Relief Service), who manage to send some little food in that area but it is not enough.

Please click here to read interview in full.

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