Outraged by the deaths and suffering they witnessed during a seven-day, fact-finding mission to southern Sudan, five leading Canadian church officials are demanding a moratorium on all aspects of oil development, including major involvement by a Canadian company, in this oil-rich, but war-ravaged region, until peace is restored.

Eighteen years of civil war in this region have claimed more than 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people in a conflict often ignored by the rest of the world.

The church leaders also called on the Canadian government to take legal action against Talisman Energy Corp., of Calgary, Alberta, the leading oil producer in Sudan, and prevent it from pumping oil and paying huge royalties to the Islamic government of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which, the church officials believe, is using the money to buy sophisticated weapons for use against southern Sudanese people, most of whom are Christians or animists.

The delegation said in a statement released when they returned to Canada shortly before Easter that a "peace dividend" in southern Sudan would flow from the strengthening of the African initiative IGAD (Inter-government Authority on Development).

The peace process has been floundering for several years because of internal politics and a lack of material resources to bring about a cease-fire and an ultimate peace agreement for a war that has badly affected civilians. The conflict is rooted in a complex mix of religious, racial and ancient tribal rivalries.

The Canadian church mission, organized by the Interchurch Coalition on Africa (ICCAF), included Protestant, Anglican and Roman Catholic officials who met New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) officials both within and outside Sudan, observed Operation ...

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