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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 5. Interfaith Dialogue

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· 5 ·

INTERFAITH DIALOGUE

Early in the 2000s, I was invited to a meal in Ali Yaquib Alhilo’s home in Khartoum. Ali Yaquib was a pious and modest man, but an old blue Rolls Royce parked in his courtyard bore witness to inherited wealth. And his manners and attitude were of someone from a high-class family, which was no surprise since he descended from the two greatest heroes in Sudan’s history. Both the Great Mahdi, Mohamed Ahmed and his successor, Khalifa Abdallahi were his great-grandparents. Ali Yaquib wanted to meet me because he had heard about my interest in interfaith dialogue. We sat down to eat, and only men were present, as always in Sudan. My host wanted to know about the state of religion in today’s Europe. He had heard about the growing secularization, and he was worried about how weak the churches and other religious groups were.

He wondered if people in Europe had stopped believing in God? I explained as best I could that institutionalized religion has been declining for many years in most European countries, but that even in my part of the world, God is not considered dead. Trying to portray the nuances of the state of religion in Europe, I could not deny that the churches were weakened, but that faith was still alive and the churches are still a place where people come together on important occasions in the life of the family or...

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