A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0709
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material of this page may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
High quality mp3 files for broadcasters to download free of charge at
PGM_006: Protecting Children - Child Soldiers
* Child soldiers, released from a rebel army in southern Sudan, return to their families. Let us know what you think! radio @ unicef.org
Just in time for the meeting of the U.N.
Human Rights Council in September and October 2006, Freedom House released
its annual report of the world's most repressive regimes. (www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=409)
Sudan features among "The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive
Regimes" considered to have the worst human rights records in the past
year. In these eight countries and two territories, "state control over
daily life is pervasive and wide-ranging, independent organisations and
political opposition are banned or suppressed, and fear of retribution
for independent thought and action is part of daily life," says Freedom
Freedom House says it hopes the report will focus the U.N. Human Rights Council's attention on countries and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations. The Council includes among its 47 members three countries profiled in "The Worst of the Worst": China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. In June 2006, the Council replaced the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which had been heavily criticised by human rights groups for allowing repressive regimes to gain influence over the monitoring body.
For several decades tensions between the Arabic North and the African South of Sudan have also been fought out militarily. In the 1950s hostilities broke out between the Government in the North and rebels in South Sudan. Successive governments followed a multifaceted goal: political control of Sudan's tradition borders, the spiritual spread of Islam and economic control of the wealth of human, mineral and agricultural resources of the South. The goal of the Southern Sudanese has been independence and freedom of religion. Hostilities in Southern Sudan intensified following the emergence of a united SPLA/M movement in 1983. Often, the conflict is described as a religious conflict between a muslim fundamentalist government in Khartoum and Christians and adherents of African religions in der South, but it should be remembered that some factions and warlords do change sides according to short term advantages they see.
Beside the national radio programmes from
Khartoum, since 1984 SPLA rebel forces have also used radio to spread their
views both using transmitters from inside the country and from neighbouring
countries like Ethiopia or Eritrea. For many years, international listeners
could follow this propaganda war in the short wave range. One of the chararacteristics
of clandestine stations broadcasting in favor of or against the Sudanese
government was the use of exact multiples of 1 MHz, such as 8000 kHz or
In early 2003, the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (NDA) resumed broadcasts of its shortwave radio station using the same station identification as before: "Voice of Sudan, voice of democracy and peace, radio of the National Democratic Alliance". Voice of Sudan began broadcasting from Eritrea in August 1995, but transmissions winded down when relations between Sudan and Eritrea improved in 1999 and 2000. After much talking about a resumption of broadcasts, the station is currently being heard at 1530-1600 h UTC on 8000 kHz.
Although many international stations broadcast
in Arabic there is little broadcasting specifically designed for Sudan.
So, it is worth mentioning that the USA were considering a regional service
in Sudanese in connection with a pre September 11, 2001 proposal for a
24 h Arabic service of the Voice of America.
The redesigned US external service in Arabic is now broadcast as a separate
music and information station named Radio Sawa. While it did include
regionally targetted opt-out programmes, a special Sudanese service was
not broadcast until 2004.
On 18 June 2002, the Broadcasting Board of Governors signed an agreement with the Republic of Djibouti that allowed the U.S. agency to build a far-reaching AM station for Radio Sawa. Using a 3-tower directional array the 600 kilo Watt medium-wave transmitter was to broadcast a regional stream of the Arabic-language broadcasting service , into counries to the North of Djibouti. On 1 February 2004, the new station in southern Djibouti started carrying a sixth stream of Radio Sawa in Arabic, at 1600-0400 h UTC on 1431 kHz
Radio Voice of Hope
2005-2006 Radio Nile
New Sudan Council of Churches,
Radio Voice of Hope,
Post Office Box 33829, Kampala, Uganda
hope @ africaonline.co.ug
not on air
Sudan Radio Service does not
post any schedule on its own website.
from April 2006
03.00-05.00: 11805 (Skelton 300 kW, 125°) Mo-Fr
05.00-06.00: 15325 (Woofferton 300 kW, 128°) Mo-Fr
15.00-18.00: 17660 (Woofferton 300 kW, 128°) Mo-Fr
Summer 2007 according to WRTH A-07 update
03.00-03.30: 5985 (Kigali 250 kW, nd) Mo-Fr English
03.30-05.00: 11805 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) Mo-Fr Arabic
04.00-06.00: 13720 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) Mo-Fr Arabic
05.00-06.00: 15325 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) Mo-Fr Arabic
15.00-15.30: 9840 (Moscow 250 kW, 190°) Arabic, Sa+Su English
15.30-16.00: 9840 (Moscow 250 kW, 190°) Arabic
16.00-17.00: 9840 (Moscow 250 kW, 190°) Mo-Fr Arabic, Sa Toposa
17.00-18.00: 9590 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) Mo-Fr Arabic
On 7 August 2003, a Sudan Radio Service broadcast their first "regular" programme with identification liners and some news in several languages of Sudan plus English. The Service is operated by Education Development Center and funded by the United States Agency for International Development. According to station manager Mike Kuenzli, who is based in Kenya, programmes are produced in studios in Washington DC and Nairobi. Beside English, they include segments in Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Muro, Zande, Shilluk, Arabic and Juba-Arabic.
Broadcasts were originally transmitted
Mondays to Fridays 1600-1700 h UTC on 17630 kHz and 1700-1800 h on 17660
kHz via short wave transmitters at Woofferton-England. In early summer
2004 broadcasts were expanded and rescheduled several times. The afternoon
broadcast at 1500-1800 is a repeat of the 0300-0600 broadcast. The language
block usually starts with 30 to 45 Minutes in English, followed by Arabic,
while the last 45 to 90 minutes are devoted to weekly broadcasts in minority
In June 2004, the US-funded and Nairobi-based operation, also started a web site www.sudanradio.org. Beside information about the station and its purpose, it also offers news summaries and audio files of the daily broadcasts. Sudan Radio Service has conducted publicity events in Maridi, Yei, Rumbek, and many other communities across southern Sudan, since September 2004. Pictures taken of SRS-sponsored activities in Maridi at www.sudanradio.org/announcements.htm and www.sudanradio.org/maridipub.jpg
programming in Sudan
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued the following information about the Sudan Radio Service in a press release dated 21 December 2005:
The overall goal of the USAID/DCHA/OTI Sudan program is to strengthen Sudanese confidence and capacity to address the causes and consequences of political marginalization, violence, and instability. The five main objectives of the OTI Sudan program are to: support the emergence of responsive, effective, and inclusive civil authorities; provide opportunities for peaceful dialogue within and among communities; assist in the emergence of an empowered and active civil society; increase access to quality, independent information; and protect vulnerable populations. In support of OTI's objective to increase access to quality, independent information, OTI has invested significantly in the development of media programming in Sudan, most notably with the creation of a local language shortwave radio service, the Sudan Radio Service (SRS).
Given Sudan's vast geographic size and high rates of illiteracy, shortwave radio was identified as the best means to quickly establish independent media for southern Sudan. Existing radio broadcasts in regional languages have been limited to broadcasts from the north and sporadic coverage from various international services like the BBC. OTI's radio service targeting southern Sudan constitutes a critical component of the USAID strategy for development in Sudan and the wider USG support to the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on January 9, 2005. Education Development Center (EDC) is OTI's implementing partner for the Sudan Radio Service, which began broadcast on July 30, 2003.
The radio service programming reflects the vibrant community of many peoples and cultures in southern Sudan. Regular, weekly programming targets speakers of Dinka, Nuer, Juba-Arabic, Bari, Shilluk, Zande, Moro, Arabic, and English. The broadcasts provide balanced news and information, particularly on the national peace process, as well as on local-level conflict resolution efforts. Information on critical humanitarian programs is also highlighted. The service broadcasts educational programming with topics ranging from agriculture/animal husbandry, economic/business development, and health issues. The service emphasizes civic education and governance programming, promoting positive and peaceful development of the government institutions. The radio service also promotes cultural programming such as music, poetry, story-telling, dramas, using these forms of entertainment to draw in listeners. Current production studios for SRS are in Nairobi, Kenya, with Sudanese producers and reporters traveling throughout southern Sudan.
The Sudan Radio Service broadcasts six hours of news, music, & informative content each day – Monday - Friday.
Monday: English, Arabic, Juba-Arabic and Dinka
Tuesday: English, Arabic, Juba-Arabic, and Zande
Wednesday: English, Arabic, Juba-Arabic, Nuer and Moro
Thursday: English, Arabic, Juba-Arabic and Bari
Friday: English, Arabic, Juba-Arabic and and Shilluk
(Source: United States Agency for International Development)
|Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction
Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction Project, 28 Mugumo Road,
Lavington, Nairobi, Kenya
|Summer 2007 (as of 4. June 2007)
0600-0630: 15440 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) 15505 (Armavir 500 kW, 188°) Mo-Fr English
0630-0700: 11945 (Kigali 250 kW, 15°) Mo-Fr English
0630-0700: 15445 (al-Dhabbaya 250 kW, 240°) Mo We Fr English
1400-1430: 15470 (Armavir 200 kW, 188°) Tu Th Sa English
"Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction".
On 27 February 2006, an education project called southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction (sSIRI) went on the air. According to a press release (24 February 2006) of sSIRI chief Leesa Kaplan the lessons are meant to improve literacy and numeracy levels, as well as English language skills, of the targeted populations and to train teachers in participatory instructional approaches and other techniques for teaching any subject. The broadcasts target schools and adult learning centres in the South, but can be heard all over the region due to the larger coverage area of short wave. While the series was created and produced by a team of Sudanese scriptwriters and actors, the whole project is and financed by USAID. The series will be heard until June as part of the morning broadcast, Monday to Friday 0630-0700 UTC."
2003 A new crisis emerging in Western Sudan
While tensions in the South seemed to calm down, a new crisis emerged in Sudan's Darfur region in 2003. The 14-month-old conflict in western Sudan has been described as "one of the world's worst humanitarian crisis" by the United Nations World Food Programme executive director James Morris. As a result of the escalation of fighting between government forces, irregulars and rebel groups, over 700,000 Sudanese were internally displaced and another 110,000 were forced to cross the border into neighbouring Chad.
On 7 May, 2004, the World Council of Churches
(WCC) launched an appeal to the president of the Republic of Sudan, Lieutenant-General
Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir "to work for an immediate end to hostilities
and to take steps to resolve the conflict through a negotiated settlement
so that much needed humanitarian relief is able to reach those in desperate
need of such assistance." The history of the WCC's involvement in Sudan
goes back to 1971 when the Council together with the All Africa Conference
of Churches (AACC) was instrumental in brokering the Addis Ababa Peace
Accord. Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, now WCC general secretary, was the
ecumenical movement’s special envoy to Sudan, and took a special interest
in pursuing peace and reconciliation there. The WCC has since closely monitored
developments in the conflict between North and South Sudan and efforts
made to achieve a just and lasting peace. The WCC and its member churches,
including those in Sudan, were greatly encouraged by the progress made
by the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, under the
auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), to
bring an end to Sudan’s 20 years of civil war. Based on that history,
and in keeping with the Machakos Protocol, the WCC general secretary also
emphasized the urgent need for Sudan's government and the Sudan People’s
Liberation Movement to undertake work on the drafting of a new constitution
based on respect for human rights, justice and equality.
Information on WCC work in Sudan: Minute on Sudan (Executive Committee meeting 17-20 February 2004)
MSF report,"Persecution, intimidation and failure of assistance in Darfur": Despite several pledges, neither the international community nor the government of Sudan has provided adequate assistance and security to the people in Darfur. <www.msf.ca/press/images/110204_darfurreport.pdf> [394 kb].
A new short wave
voice for the Southern rebels
According to a posting at <http://splmtoday.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2228> the SPLM wanted to start a new short wave voice on 28 June 2004. The Voice of New Sudan was planned to go out during the daytime on 9310 kHz. The transmitter was said to be based southeast of a village called Narus in Eastern Equatorial region of southern Sudan, just over the border with Kenya, about halfway between Lokichoggio (Kenya) and Kapoeta (Sudan). After a few days of testing, the station went silent again.
peace and free media following the accord of 9 January 2005
On 9 January 2005 the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SLPA/SPLM) signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on the sharing of power in South Sudan and the sharing of oil revenues. Although the pact was welcomed by international observers the outcome are still to be seen. In a 17 January letter to the churches and people of Sudan, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia highlighted the contribution of Sudan's churches to the peace process, and the "exemplary leadership" of the Sudan Council of Churches, the New Sudan Council of Churches, and the support of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum. Recalling that "over the years the ecumenical movement committed major resources and remained engaged in mediation initiatives that have contributed to the signing of the agreement", the letter states that WCC "will continue to accompany and support the Sudanese churches as they keep themselves involved in the implementation and monitoring of the Peace Agreement".
In a recent report, press freedom group Article 19 offers insight into the critical role that the media will have in post-conflict Sudan. The report, released January 12, outlines the challenges and risks that the country’s media will face. It also offers recommendations for how the country should proceed in the building of a viable media framework. The report notes that there is no indication that the government is willing to grant the right to free expression, despite its guarantee in Sudan’s constitution. The parties to the peace deal have agreed to make media development a priority, but none of them – including the United Nations – have prioritized civil society involvement in that development. Article 19 says it intends to work with its partners to ensure that Sudanese journalists and other members of civil society have their say in developing the country’s media.Article 19’s partners working in Sudan include the Denmark-based International Media Support and Norwegian Peoples Aid.
The Article 19 report: www.article19.org/docimages/1893.pdf.
Radio Miraya (joint UN/Hirondelle project)
Public Information Office
United Nations Mission in Sudan
Office: +249 18708 7636
January 2006 BBC World Service Trust
launches lifeline radio project in Darfur
|"Darfur Salaam" in Summer 2006.
0500-0515: 11820 kHz
1700-1715: 9640, khz both via Cyprus.
0500-0530: 9735 (Moscow 300 kW, 150°) 12015 (Armavir 500 kW, 188°)
1700-1730: 15515 (Woofferton 300 kW, 125°) 17585 (Ascension 250 kW, 65°)
In January 2006, BBC World Service Trust launched Darfur Salaam, a humanitarian radio programme for Darfur in Sudan. Some two million displaced people live in camps in Darfur, unable to return home because of local conflict. The project is modelled on previous BBC World Service Trust lifeline projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda and Burundi. BBC World Service Trust has obtained funding from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and the Ford Foundation to manage the programmes for an initial six months.
A team of Arabic journalists based in Darfur, Khartoum and at the BBC Arabic bureau in Cairo has been recruited and trained by the Trust, the international development NGO of the BBC. The programme feature personal testimonies, humanitarian news - including up-to-the-minute practical information about food distribution, shelter and medical help - and an educational element offering advice on security, health and social issues. Hosam El Sokkari, Head of the BBC's Arabic Service, says: "It will be the survival guide for our listeners in the area. We view it as a continuation of our commitment to the region." The programmes will also use music, drama and storytelling to reflect and debate issues important to the audience. The journalists will work with existing drama and music groups which receive support from NGOs and UN agencies in Darfur. Two programmes each week will be made especially for children with contributions from Zeinab Mobarak, the well-known Egyptian children's writer. The 15-minute programme also includes five minutes of news from the BBC Arabic Service.
For the last two years the Trust has been running a comprehensive journalism training programme in six regions of Sudan to strengthen the skills of the Sudanese media. Workshops held in Khartoum, Nyala, El Fasher, El Obeid, Juba, Wad Madani and Port Sudan were designed to enable local journalists to produce quality programmes that are accurate, fair, relevant, educational and participatory. Project Director Maria Frauenrath said: "The journalists were eager to boost their skills. For many it was the first time they had undertaken specific journalism training. I found it very rewarding to work with people so keen to improve their knowledge and provide life-saving information for their communities."
expands its FM presence to Southern Sudan
A considerable part of the BBC’s Sudanese audience listens via four FM relays in Northern Sudan – Khartoum 91.0 FM, Al Ubayyid 91.0 FM, Port Sudan 91.0 FM and Wad Madani 91.5 FM. The BBC has extended its FM presence in Sudan to the country’s south by launching two 24 hour a day, seven days a week FM relays in Southern Sudan’s capital city, Juba. BBC World Service broadcasts to Juba and surrounding areas in Arabic on 90.0 FM and in English on 88.2 FM. To mark the launch of the FM relays, BBC World Service staged special broadcasts from Juba during the week commencing Monday 14 August for both its English for Africa and its Arabic output.
Simon Kendall, Business Development Manager for Africa and Middle East, BBC World Service, said: “We are delighted that audiences in Juba, Southern Sudan can now listen to BBC programmes in crystal clear quality thanks to these two new FM relays. The BBC has a very substantial audience in Sudan, and we are very pleased to be able to improve our availability to our listeners in the Juba area.”
Dr Samson Kwaje, Minister of Information of the Government of Southern Sudan, expressed his happiness that the BBC is now re-broadcasting via FM relays in Juba: “The BBC is very popular in Southern Sudan, and I am confident that better access to the BBC broadcasts will play a positive role in informing our people. The people of Southern Sudan are always interested in international developments, and the BBC has the reputation for excellent coverage of global news. I am also glad that, as part of our agreement, BBC World Service will give training to the staff of the Ministry of Information, sharing its standards of excellent journalism.” (BBC World Service)
November 2006 BBC World Service Trust
wins Radio for Peacebuilding Award
Darfur Lifeline - The BBC World Service Trust's humanitarian radio service in Sudan - has won first prize for its children's programme Ursom ala el ard makaanak (Draw Your Place On Earth) in the Youth category of the Radio For Peacebuilding Awards.
The 30-minute programme, Ursom ala el ard makaanak, which goes out twice a week (Tuesday and Saturday) is targeted at children and is delivered in a magazine style format. Each show consists of testimonies from Darfuri children, an information spot where children get to voice their opinions, story time, recordings of children singing or playing and a short drama skit.
The project has been running since the start of this year and the award-winning team (from Sudan and Egypt) were recruited and trained specifically by the trust. Programme editor, Zeinab Mubarak, and her award-winning team operate out of a base in Nyala, South Darfur. She is delighted with the outcome: "Winning the prize is wonderfully gratifying; especially that it came after almost a year of work in very challenging conditions. It is a sign of confidence in all our work, not just this one programme.” The programmes are produced in Darfuri Arabic and are broadcast on BBC World Service short wave frequencies at 08.00hrs local time – repeated at 20.00hrs.
The Darfur Lifeline Radio project also broadcasts a programme for adults called Salam ila Darfur (Peace/Greetings to Darfur). The show which airs five days a week is crucial to the community of Darfur as radio is often the only way to deliver vital information. The show covers testimonies, informative reporting, features, dramas, discussion time and family reunification.
The Darfur Lifeline project, which was launched with the aid of ECHO and the Ford Foundation, is currently funded by DFID Sudan.
(BBC press release BBC World Service Trust wins Radio for Peacebuilding Award 10.11.2006)
December 2006 Radio Bakhita, first Catholic
radio station in Sudan launched
(Catholic Information Service for Africa January 5, 2007 ) - The Catholic Church in South Sudan has a new voice: a radio station dedicated to the country’s first saint, Josephine Bakhita. Bakhita Radio 91 FM, based in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, went on air on Christmas Eve with carols and Christmas messages from Catholic and Anglican church leaders. At midnight, it broadcast live from St. Theresa’s Cathedral, in Kator, the mass celebrated by Archbishop Paulino Lukudo Loro of Juba.
Bakhita Radio 91 FM, The Voice of the Church, broadcasts a daily programme of two hours. On Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, it will be on air with transmissions in the morning and evening. The radio is the mother-station of Sudan Catholic Radio Network. The signal covers a 30 km-plus radius. It has a potential audience of more than 500,000 listeners. Sudan Catholic Radio Network is a joint venture of the Comboni Missionary Institutes. The network was set up to celebrate the canonization of St Daniel Comboni and was offered to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sudan. The network will have eight radio stations, one in each diocese in South Sudan plus the Nuba Mountains.
Sudan's women struggling against violence in a war-torn country (Henrike Mueller)
"Where is God? He created us in his image. Why then is the image of God
violated in women?" wonders Joy Kwaje, a Christian woman from Sudan, a
country that "has been at war for three generations" and where violence
is an existential issue for the women. "We want people to hear the cry
of pain of the women of Sudan," she says. Kwaje, the coordinator of the
Sudan Council of Churches' (SCC) women's programme, spoke on 25 November
2004 at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, on the occasion of the launch
of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) campaign "On the wings of a dove",
a world-wide effort aimed to overcome violence against women and children.
In the following interview, she talks about what Sudan's churches and women
are doing to overcome violence and work for peace.
--- What are the churches in your country doing about violence against women and children?
Millions of women and children in my country are suffering from domestic violence, violation of their human rights, HIV/AIDS. But the church doesn't talk much about domestic violence. Most cases are never reported anywhere: not to the churches nor to the police, unless it is a very severe case. I think it has to do with our culture. These are things we need, as women, to talk about and to tell our churches and the ecumenical movement.
--- How could you do that?
When we hold workshops, we invite some of our church leaders. They attend most of our workshops and conferences. I think this is the best way of dealing with it: we are not fighting anyone. We are just coming together and working towards improving the dialogue. We really named violence against women as an issue for the first time in 1998.
--- How do local church groups work towards improving the situation of women in Sudan?
Mostly through fellowship: women in the churches come together, do Bible studies and pray together. When they are gathered together, they identify their concerns, and ask the Sudan Council of Churches to help them organize workshops on these topics. Now, for example, women are informing themselves on peace issues, and have asked for workshops on peace-building, human rights, violence against women, or even women's leadership in the church.
The Sudan Council of Churches takes care of those issues the women cannot deal with, like advocacy work for peace, or training on children's rights or human rights. We either solicit people to support us, or we do it ourselves.
--- The role of women in the Sudan has changed. They had to cope with the war situation, and are often the family breadwinners. Where do they find the strength to cope with this situation?
It's puzzling. But when the situation is hopeless and there is nobody for you to rely on, you start to make yourself stronger in order to support the others. Even as displaced persons, as refugees, there are practical things to do. Women have to find food for themselves. When their children are sick, they have to take them to hospital. They have to take them to school. These are things they must do since otherwise, nobody does it.
Women in Khartoum used to brew beer to earn a bit of money. They now know that this is something that might put them into prison and take them away from their children. So they organize skills training to find other income-generating opportunities. Women have also set up women's organizations, for example in peace-keeping or development. Due to this, they are able to inform themselves about the ongoing political processes. I think that's how we find ourselves.
--- How do the churches react to that?
We have not had an open reaction, but a kind of acceptance. For example, you will find more women in the parish councils. Churches are opening up. And women are also taking responsibility within their spaces in the churches: the Mothers' Union, the Christian Women's fellowship, and other groups like that. Up to now, the churches probably do not see this as a threat… but they could.
Women are not in the high leadership levels of the church. You will find very few women in the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) executive committee - only two out of twenty members are women. At the moment, we are struggling with the ordination of women. Among the twelve SCC member churches, only two have accepted women's ordination.
--- Sudanese women themselves say that the war has taught them cooperation beyond traditional boundaries like gender, tribe or religion. How important is ecumenical cooperation between women in the Sudan?
The ecumenical relationship has been very strong. Women within different member churches do a lot of work together. They organize workshops together, go in an ecumenical group to visit their sisters in prison. If we organise conferences under the Sudan Council of Churches umbrella, we bring women from different churches together to participate. The churches in Sudan are made up of different tribes speaking different languages; the ecumenical spirit among the women is very strong, and crosses tribal boundaries,
--- What about interfaith cooperation?
We have even learned to work across faith boundaries, particularly with our Muslim sisters. When I am asked "How do you dothat?", my answer is that "We don't call it interfaith dialogue. We are just doing service together". For example, in our peace network, it is peace we talk about, not our faith. That has had a very big impact. When the Darfur issue came up, we started gathering with the women of Darfur. We organized training on peace issues, and prayed together. Nobody calls this a Christian-Muslim dialogue. It was just a work meeting.
--- How has the world-wide ecumenical fellowship contributed to improving women's lives in Sudan?
The WCC has been supporting the Sudan, particularly in regard to peace, since the early seventies. The first war was brought to an end with the help of the WCC. What was missing were concrete signs of support: there had been no WCC visit for a long time, until last summer. But when they finally came [an ecumenical women's delegation organized by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) visited churches, community centres and women’s groups in and around Khartoum from 29 June to 9 July 2004] it was a visit across all divides: Christian churches were included as well as the Darfur women. I think that the WCC has given us the backing to be able to grow in this work.
--- Sudan is still longing for sustainable peace. What are the main tasks now for churches around the world to accompany Sudan on its way?
The WCC and the AACC supported Sudan's churches during the difficult time of war, and accompanied them with their peace advocacy work. This accompaniment must continue, because a lot more remains to be done. We are entering a period of peace - something we have never experienced before. Our country has been at war for three generations, so democracy and good governance will have to be enhanced. We need the churches to accompany the people and the country on the way to sustainable peace by providing them with skills, educating them about governance, democracy and accountability. When the peace is signed, we will also enter a period of repatriation and reconstruction. For all this, I think we would need the accompaniment of the ecumenical movement
--- What can churches and non-governmental organizations do to improve the situation of women?
Non-governmental and church-related organizations have supported, and currently support, most of the women's programmes and activities. They understand where the women come from, and their need for a strong civil society. In this post-war period, the government will be very much involved in reconstructing the whole country. Thus women's needs may not get support from the government and may need to continue relying on churches and NGOs.
--- How important is the spiritual dimension of your work?
It is very important. Sometimes, when I look at the things happening in my country, I ask: Where is God? He created us in his image. Why then is the image of God violated in women? But then my faith tells me: Yes, there is one God. It is this basic faith in the one God that makes us tell the world that violence against women is evil, is a sin, and we must confess it. In spite of the violence that women suffer, we are created in the image of God, and we deserve to live a life in dignity.
We have also started talking about reconciliation, because we think that peace is fragile: if we don't talk about reconciliation, communities can easily slip back into conflict. We think that the only way towards sustainable peace is reconciliation and healing of our community, healing of the people, healing of the country.
--- From your experience, what advice or suggestions do you have to offer in support of the struggle of Christian communities elsewhere against violence against women?
I don't know if I have any advice at all. But what is important for me is the inspiration that we have brought from the past and pass on to future generations. We know that people struggled against violence in the past, and that has inspired the present work against violence like the "Wings of the Dove" campaign. This inspiration should continue to the coming generation. It should make us work harder to make sure that our children do not go through what our grandmothers went through. This is something we should continue to work on: that the world becomes a better place for all of us.
Information on WCC work on the situation in Sudan is available at:
Sudan: Not Just a "Land of Massacres",
The image of Sudan as home to the 21st century's first genocide and closed off to the world is misleading, a Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) fact-finding mission found.
Over five days in March 2007, RSF learned that rather than being monolithic and uncritical, Sudan's civil society and press are active and diverse. In Khartoum, the press reflects the voices of Sudanese human rights activists,
academics and other civil society actors, who find it difficult to make themselves heard outside the country. Even in Darfur, the RSF delegation found a real awareness of the unfolding crisis and the challenges ahead.
But national and foreign media face real obstacles in covering the "forgotten actors" and getting to the root causes of the crisis. Besides the large number of armed factions, the absence of a "front line", the hostile terrain and not being able to distinguish between combatants and civilians, the government has erected a "bureaucratic fence" - discretionary visas, special travel permits and blacklists - to regulate and influence the press. So international stories tend to only focus on the atrocities and suffering under a "hostile" government.
RSF recommends that the Sudanese government take all necessary measures to open up the country to the foreign press; that international organisations take account of local realities and support the active civil society; and that the international media should not neglect the "forgotten actors", so they portray Sudan in all its diversity. Download RSF's report "Darfur: An investigation into a tragedy's forgotten actors":
Dr. Hansjörg Biener
c/o Lehrstuhl Evangelische Religionspädagogik der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg,
Regensburger Str. 160, DE-90478 Nürnberg