John Zogby and Sudan Sunrise Concerned with Muslim Offer to Rebuild Catholic Cathedral being Refused

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"I became involved with NBA legend Manute Bol in 2010 because I believed in his mission to build schools in ravaged South Sudan and because he was a unifying figure who worked tirelessly for reconciliation of religious groups in his home nation. I am now chairman of Sudan Sunrise and we have been working closely with groups on the ground to build a new Catholic Church that was destroyed by Muslims gangs. It is Muslims themselves who reached out to us." John Zogby, Chairmen of the Board.

Sadly, the offer of young Sudanese Muslims to help rebuild the Catholic Cathedral in Torit, South Sudan has been refused by Vatican and Diocesan authorities, as per an Official Notice released by spokesperson, Fr. Mark Opere Omol on May 7.

Young Sudanese Muslims seeking to distance themselves from an April 2012 burning of a church in Khartoum offered to help rebuild the twice-destroyed Catholic Cathedral in Torit, South Sudan, with the help of Reston, VA based non-profit, Sudan Sunrise.

This project garnered international attention in 2012, when project leader Rudwan Dawod was charged with terrorism while in Khartoum visiting his family, for which he was beaten for voicing opposition to the burning of churches. After his release, Dawod travelled to Torit “to let the bishop know I was not giving up.”

Bishop Johnson Akio, of the Catholic Diocese of Torit, an enthusiastic supporter of this project, died on March 18 from kidney failure. Bishop Akio repeatedly expressed his desire to see this symbol become a reality. Most recently in writing on January 26, and on May 1, the priest designated by Bishop Akio as a link to the project had a day-long meeting in Torit in which he expressed to Sudan Sunrise’s field director his total support for the initiative. The Official Notice released by Fr. Opere Omol describes the reason for refusing the assistance of the Muslims due to concerns over “the motive behind such a move.”

Sudan Sunrise has had to cancel a May 16th reception at The Catholic University of America for the presentation of a design and the vision for the project. Imam Mohamed Magid, the President of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Islamic network in the US, had offered to speak at the reception to voice his support for young Muslims helping to rebuild the Cathedral.

“Rudwan Dawod didn’t let torture or the threat of a death sentence deter him. Despite this setback, the goodwill and example of hundreds of young Sudanese Muslims who offered to help rebuild the Cathedral will still shine” says Prichard. “This reconciliation movement may take a different shape, with a different church. I am confident this is not the end of the story. There is something in their example that has the potential to change the world.”

Sudan Sunrise’s principal work is in reconciliation and education.

"In the name of Manute Bol, a person who was in many ways so much larger than us, we will find a project for the positive energies of Muslim and Christian volunteers." John Zogby, Chairmen of the Board.

For more information or interview please contact:

Tom Prichard, Executive Director
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