Sudan's persecuted Christians are celebrating a peace accord and hoping for the best. Sudan's government and rebel leaders from the predominantly Christian and animist south signed the agreement January 9 in Kenya.

The treaty ends 22 years of ethnic- and religious-based civil war. The conflict pitted the Arab Muslim regime in Khartoum, northern Sudan, against the black Christian and animist south. The war left some 2 million dead, mainly from illness and famine, and 4 million Sudanese displaced.

Civil war started immediately after the British granted Sudan independence in 1956. That war ended in 1972. Violence resumed in 1983 when Khartoum imposed Islamic law nationwide. In the 1990s, the government launched bombing raids that targeted schools, hospitals, and relief centers operated by international aid groups. Since 1999 the government has sought to exploit the south's vast oil reserves, fueling the conflict.

The agreement calls for a secular government in southern Sudan's 10 states and Islamic law in the north. It grants autonomy for the south and splits money from the south's oil and other natural wealth evenly between the north and south. In 2011 the south will vote on independence. United Nations peacekeepers are to help enforce the agreement.

Restoring normalcy in Sudan will be tough, according to Myron Jesperson, director of World Relief Sudan. "There are many elements that threaten to tear apart the fragile agreement, not least the terrible war that is escalating in Darfur," Jesperson said. Genocide in western Darfur pits Arab Muslims against black tribal Muslims.

Congressman Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., remains wary. "Anytime you talk about a group that 133; targets Christians for persecution and death, you have to worry about hostilities flaring up again," he told CT.

The Washington-based International Center for Religion and Diplomacy helped set up a Sudan Inter-Religious Council with key Christian and Muslim leaders. Members gather monthly to address issues such as forced conversions of Christians to Islam.

Bishop Daniel Bul of the Anglican diocese of Renk said the church must now educate and mobilize Christians at the grassroots. "They have to have peace themselves," he said. "They have to forgive one another. If there is internal peace, for sure we will be able to sustain the peace we have signed."

To that end, Bul is chairing a Christian peace and justice commission. "I have to teach our people to forgive one another and reconcile. Let bygones be bygones and start a new life though many millions are traumatized. We must make sure our people are living in unity and peace. We want to heal the wounds of the world within the heart of the people. If we have the capacity for doing that, we'll have peace."

Related Elsewhere:

Our past coverage of the attempts for peace in Sudan include:

A False Cry of Peace | Wilfred Mlay, World Vision's regional vice president for Africa, discusses the crisis facing black Muslims in Darfur. (Sept. 09, 2004)
Never Again? | Genocide in Sudan tests our commitment to justice. (Aug. 03, 2004)
Sudden Death in Darfur | John Danforth, new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, demands Sudan stop murderous Arab militias (July 16, 2004)
Ethnic Cleansing, Genocide, and Plain Old Murder | What Tony Campolo and the State Department mean in recent comments about Palestine and Sudan. (June 23, 2004)
Freedom for Sudanese Faith | With new peace accord signed, Christians prepare to meet needs (July 12, 2004)
Ambassador: Sudan Accords Only One Step in Peace Process | Continued effort to implement and monitor Sudan's peace agreement will be necessary to ensure safety for its population, Michael Ranneberger says. (June 04, 2004)
Hope, Caution Follow Signing of Sudanese Peace Agreement | After 21 years of civil war, Sudan may finally be on the verge of peace. But don't stop praying. (June 04, 2004)
Submitting to Islam—or Dying | Ceasefires and peace talks bow to greater powers in Sudan (Oct. 8, 2003)

More Christianity Today coverage of persecution is available on our website.

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