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Reconciliation in the Sudans


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 4. Religion in Conflict


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There were political, cultural, and economic causes behind the Southern Sudanese rebellion, but religion also played a role. The conflict was often described in international media as a religious conflict between the Muslim north and the Christian south. This is not correct. There have always been a good number of Muslims in Southern Sudan, and they were never regarded as enemies of the liberation from the north. On the contrary, Muslims took part in the SPLA alongside Christians. Nor were Muslims spared when the government army attacked civilians; villages with a Muslim population were just as much subject to bombing and burning as areas dominated by Christians. In the Nuba Mountains, government soldiers and their allies burnt down both churches and mosques. The Southern Sudanese were critical of the Islamization by the government in the north; they reacted above all to the combination of Arabization and Islamization whereby Islam was identified as a part of Arabic culture, foreign to the African culture. Muslims in Sudan with an African identity were treated like second-class Muslims. ← 18 | 19 →

Secular or Religious State?

After Islamist revolutionaries seized power in Sudan in 1989, the religious element came to play a more dominant role in the civil war. The question of freedom of religion became a central theme in the conflict. President Nimeiri had already introduced sharia laws in 1983, and people in the south regarded these as one...

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