Rising Violence a Concern for World Religious Leaders at Summit

Ecumenical leaders across Africa and the world expressed the concern over the rising incidence of military conflicts in the world at the WCC-organized Ecumenical Conference in Nigeria.
( [email protected] ) Sep 04, 2004 03:59 PM EDT

Ecumenical leaders across the continent of Africa and across the world attended a regional Ecumenical Conference in Nairobi, September 2-4, in an effort to increase ecumenism among the major evangelical churches. During the three-day summit, leaders expressed concern over the rising incidences of military conflicts in the world and discussed the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.

“The churches should rise up to the occasion and try preventive measures and remind political leaders of their role in serving poorer areas,” said Rev. Dr. Myume Dandala, the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).

While addressing other continental heads of Christian churches, Dandala cited the situation in Iraq and Sudan as examples where violence has been left to rule the day without giving dialogue a chance.

Dandala said the churches should unite and find a way of making their voice heard when governments make important decisions regarding their citizens.

Also during the conference, Dandala spoke of the conflict in Darfur, sharing the same concern of many other world church leaders. He announced that church leaders were planning to visit Darfur and express their solidarity with the victims.

World church leaders have described the international community’s response to the conflict in Darfur as inadequate and say that the situation could easily get out of hand even as Sudan rejected a peacekeeping force on its soil.

Dandala warned that the conflict could jeopardize the recently signed peace agreement between the south held by liberators and the Arab-controlled Khartoum government in the north.

“The problems in the north should remain in the north, but they must not be allowed to divert attention from the south. By focusing on Darfur, the world should not be allowed to forget the south,” he said.

Citing the reluctance of the United Nations (UN) in responding to the conflict, the cleric called on the African continent to find solutions to local conflicts.

"The sanctions the UN is threatening to impose on the Khartoum government are long overdue, since human rights abuses are going on unabated," he said.

Robert Edgar, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the U.S., said that the just concluded Olympic games had led the world to forget that the Darfur conflict ever existed.

"The international community has often been known not to act when genocide and violence takes place in the world," he said.

According to UN estimates, up to 50,000 people have died in Darfur since rebels rose up against the government in February last year, and about 1.4 million people have fled their homes, some 180,000 of them crossing the border into Chad. Meanwhile, 1.2 million people in Darfur remain internally displaced, after what the U.N. calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.