SUDAN: RECONCILIATION AND INTER-RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING
IMTD has been hosting a series of meetings focused on Sudan’s North-South conflict and cooperated with the United States Department of State to organize project related to reconciliation and interreligious understanding.
IMTD has followed the Sudan’s problems for years, primarily because Ambassador McDonald knows Col. John Garang, the leader of the SPLA in the South and Steven Wandu, the SPLA unofficial Ambassador to the US. John Garang graduated from Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa and then went on and obtained a Masters Degree and a Ph.D. in agriculture from Iowa State University some years ago. He was in Iowa for eight years. He returned for a visit to Grinnell in 1990 and Ambassador McDonald, then President of the Iowa Peace Institute, located in Grinnell, was able to spend some time with John Garang. The root cause of this conflict was the passion John Garang felt for the need for Sudan to allow freedom of religion. The central governments were Muslim and refusal to do this.
IMTD hosted a series of five meetings in 1999-2000 focused on the North-South conflict but we could never get any serious government attention to focus on this conflict.
In 2004 we finally had a breakthrough. IMTD partnered with another NGO, CRI in Tacoma, Washington and submitted a project proposal to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) requesting funds to work with the Sudan Council of Churches in Khartoum, Sudan. The NED approved the proposal in June and we finally carried out the project in December 2004.
Ambassador McDonald and Dr. Bill Lincoln of CRI were old friends having worked together in 1990 in Moscow and Warsaw, in Havana in 1996 and in St. Petersburg in 2004. Bill, and his Deputy, Polly Davis, had been to Khartoum five times in the last three years, the only US NGO to have done this, and had excellent contacts across the board. This was only McDonald’s second trip. A great deal was accomplished during this recent visit during the first two weeks of last December.
The trip was a great success. We spent most of our time with the Sudan Council of Churches, first developing with some of the staff, culturally correct role plays and simulations relating to their particular problems and concerns and them we carried out an intense conflict resolution and leadership training for 22 members of their organization. As a result of these efforts we have been invited back and asked, in addition, to try to work in the future with the Christian churches in Juba, in the South.
During our stay we also met with the US Embassy, at the highest level, who fully supported our efforts but can not help financially because of US Government sanctions on the North, with the leaders of the Inter Faith Council of Churches (Muslim and Christian), who want our help with the internally displaced persons in Khartoum, with the DDR, who are concerned about disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation and want our skill building talents in conflict resolution We also met with the leadership of the University and lectured to 50 young Sudanese diplomats, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs present. They to want us back for more.