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Reconciliation in the Sudans

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Stein Erik Horjen

In 2005, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the longest civil war in African history. Stein Erik Horjen argues that although this second civil war was not a religious one, religion still played an important role in the conflict. Ensuring freedom of religion was a high priority for the SPLM and for the Sudanese churches, which were instrumental in preparing the ground for the 2005 agreement in the same way they had been in facilitating the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972.
Focusing on the pivotal role of the Sudanese churches through a grassroots peace process called People to People, Horjen examines the churches’ work in ensuring the success of the peace talks between the SPLM and the government sealed by the 2005 Peace Agreement. Taking up the role as the voice of the voiceless, the Sudanese churches challenged and criticized the military and political leaders in regards to abuses of power.
In Reconciliation in the Sudans, Horjen details the tremendous suffering of the people during recurrent conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan. Understanding the history will allow the reader contextual insight into the latest conflict that erupted in South Sudan in 2013. The failure of including mechanisms for reconciliation in the CPA can be considered a main reason for this latest war.
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Chapter 20. Methods

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· 20 ·

METHODS

The Sudanese churches’ active commitment to peace found inspiration in many sources. I have already described traditional mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts that were well-known in Sudanese society, but there were other sources too. In the African tradition, it comes natural that religion plays a central role in a peace process. Christian faith and biblical theology were brought in, often resonating with other religious traditions. Sudanese Christianity has assimilated elements of African spirituality. This could be expressed in their preaching and their rituals. At People to People events, Christian worship would take place in conjunction with the performance of traditional rituals, such as the sacrifice of a bull. Traditional rituals have been interpreted by Sudanese Christians in light of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Both types of sacrifices can be seen as pointing to the sacrifice of Christ.

A rite of passage can include both traditional African and Christian elements. A European friend of mine spent quite some time trying to convince a group of pastors that she was properly married even if no cows as dowry had been exchanged. The Church wedding was obviously not enough. And neither the legal registration. In many cases, church leaders were bridge builders between people’s traditional religious ideas and the modern society. Since the people were fundamentally religious, and there were hardly any functioning ← 157 | 158 → state institutions, the Christian institutions played an important role as carriers of people’s...

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