As tensions continue between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan, incidents of ethnic and religious conflict intensify. One such incident occurred on April 22, 2012 as group of Muslim extremists in Khartoum, Sudan looted and burned three church complexes, which included a school and clinic. In response, local Muslim peace activists attempted to demonstrate their solidarity with the Christian minority by cleaning the ransacked compounds. Unfortunately, government security forces blocked their efforts by barricading the entrance.
Undeterred in their commitment to respond to this latest incident of sectarian violence against the Christian minority community, the Muslim peace activists from Khartoum are joining Muslims from Sudan, South Sudan, and the United States to partner with Sudan Sunrise to rebuild a Catholic Cathedral in Torit, South Sudan. The Cathedral in Torit, which serves over 1,000 worshippers, was destroyed during the last civil war by armed forces from the North, and still lies in ruins. Torit is the capital of Eastern Equatoria State, and in addition to its Christian majority, has a large Muslim population. Both the Christian and Muslim communities in Torit have suffered from the civil war between the North and South, and are determined to prevent future violence. As an recent example of this commitment, women from Eastern Equatoria recently called for an interfaith prayer gathering, which resulted in an inspiring assembly of Christians and Muslims in Torit united in prayers for peace.
Bishop Johnson Akio, of the Catholic Diocese in Torit, and Cardinal Gabriel Wako in Khartoum are both enthusiastic of the building project. In fact, Bishop Akio delivered news of the Muslim initiative to rebuild the cathedral during an recent visit to the Vatican. The local Muslim community in Torit also supports this reconciliation initiative and collectively recalled that in 1941 Southern Sundanese Christians helped to build a mosque for their community. In addition to the support from both Christians and Muslims, government officials in South Sudan have also voiced their support for the project.
Sudanese-born Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America, enthusiastically supports this initiative of Muslims rebuilding a church. In conjunction with rebuilding the cathedral, Imam Magid has proposed a meeting of Islamic and Christian Scholars in Khartoum to issue a statement condemning religious intolerance and violence, and a call to the Muslim community to protect the rights of the minority Christian population in Sudan. Following the Khartoum meeting, Imam Magid envisions a parallel meeting in Torit to celebrate the completion of the Cathedral, and to issue a similar statement and a call to protect the rights of the Muslim minority in South Sudan.
The Cathedral will be rebuilt at it’s current location on Torit's main road, and will stand as a symbol for peace and reconciliation not only between Christians and Muslims, but also Sudan and South Sudan. Volunteers stand ready to begin salvaging materials from the old cathedral, and to begin building as soon as possible. The volunteers, many of whom are Darfurian refugees or university students, have neither the funding to cover their housing and meals, nor the cost of building supplies. Sudan Sunrise is searching for funders to make this act of reconciliation a reality. Please join in this effort by making a donation now.
Note: This project partially had its genesis in the Kimotong Reconciliation Church project envisioned by Darfurian Muslims as an expression of gratitude to Olympian Lopez Lomong for being a member of "Team Darfur" at the Beijing Olympics. After the London Olympics, the Lopez Lomong Foundation will lead a development initiative for Kimotong, which will include the construction of a church (more information at http://lopezlomong.com/foundation/).