Catholic Relief Services and The United States Council of Catholic Bishops came together to urge Americans to help stop a genocide before it starts. On Tuesday, Sept. 21 CRS hosted a video chat facilitating the discussion of what could happen and how to stop it.
CRS and USCCB representatives in Juba, a city in southern Sudan, Washington D.C. and CRS headquarters in Baltimore spoke about ending the threat of violence before it happens but also what measures will be taken if violence does break out.
“The Sudanese want peace,” Tom Purekal, CRS program manager for peacebuilding and governance, said. “This is their first opportunity to have a voice.”
CRS is launching a new program called 101 Days of Prayer for Peace in Sudan. The campaign aims to unite Catholics in not only prayer but also action to prevent what could become the largest conflict in African history. The 101 days references the time until the vote on Jan. 9, 2010 in which the south may secede and form its own nation.
The same time that CRS begins this campaign, President Barack Obama made his first major statement on the pressing issue of violence in Sudan during a meeting during the United Nations general assembly. “The comprehensive peace agreement that ended the civil war must be fully implemented,” said President Obama. “The referenda on self-determination scheduled for Jan. 9th must take placed – peacefully and on time, and the will of the people of South Sudan […] must be respected, regardless of the outcome.”
Although the best-case scenario is freedom for the Sudanese and peace between these nations, CRS is ready for the worst case. Art Kirby, CRS regional representative for East Africa, expressed the “potential for violence” upon the millions of southerners currently living in Khartoum, Sudan’s capitol in the north. “There is danger of tribal violence,” Kirby said.
While President Obama and members of the U.N. try to prevent a large-scale conflict, what can students do? The one resounding answer was advocate. “Take action today by sending an email to Obama and your member of Congress,” said Tina Rodousakis, CRS grassroots advocacy manager. “President Obama needs to know that this is important to Americans.”
On a larger scale CRS has sent $4 million dollars in aid, all going towards peacebuilding efforts. CRS is preparing for the worst-case scenario sending in goods. Either way CRS is ready for the impending vote. For more information on what’s happening in Sudan and how to advocate visit peaceinsudan.crs.org.