Letter: Sudan war: not just between Muslims and Christians

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Sir: The recent diplomatic row provoked by Dr Carey's unofficial visit to Sudan is unfortunate. The Archbishop of Canterbury's visit was meant to promote goodwill, reconciliation and tolerance, but, sadly, ended in confrontation, political squabbling and recrimination. However, the diplomatic tussle between the two countries could have been avoided if the Church had been careful in not giving the impression of providing moral sustenance to the Christian- led secessionist movement in southern Sudan.

Third World countries that were once ruled by European powers are extremely sensitive about their territorial integrity and national sovereignty. This is because, during the colonial days, politics in these countries was allowed to be communalised along religious lines, thereby producing a fertile ground for future conflict and civil war. In Sudan, it was the Christians against the Muslims; in India, the Muslims against the Hindus and the Sikhs. As a result, both countries are today experiencing armed insurgencies: India in Kashmir, and Sudan in its southern province.

Given the historical animosity between Islam and Christianity in Sudan and the powerful role religion plays in Sudanese politics, it is not surprising that Dr Carey's visit has provoked such a strong reaction. A visit by the Pope to Northern Ireland or by Ayatollah Khomeini to Kashmir without the permission of the respective governments would have evoked similar, if not stronger, reactions. In fact, India deported a British missionary in the Sixties for providing moral support to the Christian-led secessionist movement in the Indian state of Nagaland.

Perhaps, in future, spiritual leaders should avoid visiting countries that are torn by sectarian violence and religious strife.

Yours faithfully,

RANDHIR SINGH BAINS

Gants Hill, Essex

1 January

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