Reciprocal understanding amid
The true challenge for the Church in
Sudan is to teach its people to live in diversity and to accept one
another without prejudices. The goal is to make Sudan a place "that is
at peace with itself and that accepts its children the way that they
humans created in God's image and likeness. These are among the
difficulties and hopes that Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak of Wau discussed in
an interview given in English to L'Osservatore Romano's Italian
daily edition. We publish excerpts below.
What are the prospects for the future of
a Church in a country where they are trying to introduce the Sharia law?
When you say they are trying to
introduce the Sharia law, you mean the North of the country, because the
South of Sudan is free of Sharia. We are not able to anticipate the
reaction of the non-Muslims in the North or the effect the imposition
According to the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement (CPA) non-Muslims in Khartoum should be treated in a way which
will give them a sense of belonging to Sudan, which will convince them
that they have everything to gain in unity. In order to make unity
attractive there needs to be a recognition of their right
to be a different culture, to be different in their religious
profession, to be different in other ways according to their culture and
If they introduce and apply the Sharia
law in the North I am afraid this will work against the unity that the
Sudanese are talking about, against making the unity of Sudan attractive
to everybody. Making unity attractive means realizing that other people
have the right to be different, and to practice their religion. And if
this does happen it will threaten the unity of Sudanese people that a
lot of people are working hard to achieve.
How do you think that Sudan will be able
to emerge from the conflicts that are affecting it?
It is basically a question of the
acceptance of one another. Sudanese people, not all of them accept one
another; they don't accept that others want to be Sudanese and yet not
be Christian, that one can be a Sudanese and yet not be a Muslim.
This is very difficult for some people,
those who are not yet convinced that we all come from one source that is
God, the merciful and loving Father. We all come from him. None of us
choose our own mothers and fathers. I did not choose to be black, nor
did you choose to be white. No, we are what we are by birth.
So this is basically the problem. There
are people hoping that Sudan will be a place where everyone will be
Christian or everyone will become Muslim. We tell them honestly and in a
very friendly way that this is not possible. And so if we want a Sudan
that is inclusive, if we want it to be home to all who are there, then
we have to accept ourselves to be racially, culturally and religiously
different and yet to work for a Sudan in which everybody finds himself
or herself at home.
Sudan needs courage, humility and
generosity of heart, so that we can accept one another.
From 11-18 April, general elections will
the first multi-party elections in 24 years. What are your hopes?
We hope that the leaders chosen in this
election will come out with a vision of Sudan which is inclusive,
something along the lines that we see in Switzerland, India, the United
States, Brazil: wherever everybody feels at home and everyone is
accepted regardless of race, religion, sex, culture.
We all will be at home provided that all
these characteristics are accepted. We will live together in a nation
that is God-given, that is at peace with itself and that accepts its
children the way that they are.
How does the Church intervene vis-a-vis
the human rights violations, as in Darfur, for example?
Every diocese has a Justice and
Peace Commission in order to educate our population, to educate our
faithful on the right understanding of justice and peace. It is our
Catholic tradition and we have it in the official documents of the
Church, especially in the social teaching of the Church. The Bishops of
Rome have insisted on the right to understand that we were all created
in God's image and likeness and that we all answer to him, regardless of
whether we are Christian or not.
So that is part of our Catholic teaching about the human person,
regardless of race or religion, regardless of whether he is poor or
rich, whether he is a professor in a university or works in the fields
each of us is created after God's own image and likeness and we are
sacred, which we must respect.
After the last war that was concluded in
2005, the Church has worked to promote these ideas through the Peace and
Justice Commissions in the dioceses, in the villages, with the families.
The idea is to have a human society with these Christian communities and
with those who are faithful to the teaching and to the example of our
We are in dialogue with the Government
of Darfur and basically we are bringing home to them the vision of
of a society that is free, where people love truth, life and holiness
and seek peace for all. And all humans who seek the truth, who seek the
teaching of Christ, find all of their aspirations fulfilled.
We don't impose anything on a
non-Christian government, we only propose. We propose Jesus as the Way,
the Truth and the Life and anyone who accepts him loses nothing; instead
he finds himself enriched. This is our faith.
How is the Church engaged in providing health care and doing
We are involved in HIV/AIDS programmes in all our parishes, in all
our dioceses. It is part of the mission of the Church to take care of
the needy, to assist the poor.
We have one hospital that we are just
finishing now and we have health centres in all our parishes because we
know the human person is spirit and body. And the Lord Jesus also took
care of the body when he was in a position to, because through the body
we take care of the spirit, through the body we are able to show to our
fellow men that we care for them.
It has just been 4.5 years since the
long war that lasted 22 years. The school of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference is training paramedics in the health centres, for example. It
is in the tradition of the Church that we take care of the poor, the
human body and the human spirit. We want to offer support and help in
this crucial area so that people feel they belong to the family of God.