Carey Protests Persecution of Sudanese Christians, Damage to Anglican Cathedral
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Sat May 5 02:19:45 EDT 2001
Carey protests persecution of Sudanese Christians, damage to Anglican
By Jan Nunley
(ENS) Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has sent a strongly-worded
protest to the government of Sudan about the use of excessive force
and arrests by Sudanese police against Christians during the Easter
season, which resulted in damage to Khartoum's All Saints Cathedral.
In an April 27 letter to Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudan's minister for
external relations, Carey insisted that "strong public assurances" of
religious and civil rights protections must be given by the government
to Sudan's Christian community.
"I am afraid that I must take issue with your assertion that 'our
forces never attack or target civilian centres'," Carey admonished
Ismail. "My colleague, Bishop David Stancliffe, bishop of Salisbury,
was in Lui some weeks after the event and has testimony that makes it
very clear that the cathedral was deliberately targeted. This is
something we will want to explore further with you, including the
possibility of compensation for the loss of the building."
Carey cited evidence that permission for use of Green Square in
Khartoum for a religious rally was withdrawn only the day before,
although the site is frequently used for church and other meetings.
When Christians who had not been informed of the cancellation arrived
at the site, Carey said, "they were treated roughly, shooting broke
out, several were wounded and more than 50 were arrested. At the least
this would seem to be an excessive response to a predictable
A proposed alternative site on the outskirts of Khartoum North was
"highly unsuitable" for a gathering of that type, said Carey.
After the Green Square altercation, the Christians gathered at All
Saints Cathedral to sing and pray. Without warning, police fired tear
gas into the packed cathedral. "This was a reckless act that was bound
to produce panic and was totally unjustified by the situation in the
cathedral compound," Carey complained. "I am informed that as the
people fled they were moved on by police with whips.
"One young man is reported to have lost a hand and 56 people were
arrested. From the several reports that I have seen, there would
appear to be little doubt that the police response was excessive and
could have had far more disastrous consequences," said Carey.
Those who were arrested and charged with causing a public disturbance
were brought to trial without lawyers. Six women and three children
were sentenced to be flogged and released; the rest were flogged and
given prison terms.
"I would urge the Sudanese government to take every possible step to
assure Christians in Khartoum, and throughout the country, that their
religious and civil rights will be fully respected and upheld by the
government," Carey's letter concluded. "For the sake of the future of
inter-religious relations in Sudan, to which you have repeatedly
expressed your commitment, it is essential that strong public
assurances be given to the Christian community. An appropriate sign of
that commitment would be for compensation to be paid for the damage
suffered by All Saints Cathedral."
Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Office of News and
Information for the Episcopal Church.
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