Sudan: Bishops Fearful of War as Bashir is Sworn In

As Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is sworn in as the victor of the nation's first multi-party elections in 25 years, Catholic bishops have expressed concerns that the country could fall into another war.

"It needs just one single shot to explode and we will go back to the bush," where many people lived during the country's civil war, Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid told Catholic News Agency (CNA).

The bishops, who are part of 5.5 million Sudanese Christians living in the country's semi-autonomous Southern region, believe that al-Bashir's victory is another sign of efforts to make Sudan an Islamic state.

"The election results may spark serious violence [soon]," Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala told Aid to the Church in Need. "The violence may be compared to nothing less than a genocide because there are many deep-seated animosities in the hearts of many people of different ethnic groups in the south."

Sectarian violence plagued Sudan for nearly two decades until the signing of 2005's Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Nearly 2 million people were killed in the conflict and more than 4 million southerners were displaced.

Shari'a law has long been in effect in Northern Sudan, whose Muslim population is nearly five times larger than the Christian and animist population in the South.

In January 2011, al-Bashir will preside over a referendum put forward by the South to become an independent state.

"We are in the hands of God. We ask God to save us from breaking down and going back to the gun," Gassis said, "The gun will not solve the problem. We do not know what the solution will be, but we keep on praying, we are in his hands, we are his children."

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