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Tags: World | Ignores | Atrocities | Sudan

World Ignores Atrocities in Sudan

Wednesday, 04 April 2001 12:00 AM

Lately, it concentrated its energies on campaign financing, a topic not covered anywhere in Scripture.

While promoting forcefully the McCain-Feingold bill in public pronouncements, NCCC has been curiously mum about the most burning issue Christianity is facing in the entire world: the genocide perpetrated chiefly against Christians in southern Sudan.

One should ask the question why an organization of 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations – known for urging the return of Elian Gonzalez to communist Cuba – does not cry out in protest when Muslim militiamen pierce and padlock the lips of black Christians so that they may not talk about the horrors they have seen and endured?

What horrors? How about crucifixion, enslavement, beheadings, systematic genocide with the aid of helicopter gunships and bombers of Soviet, Chinese and Libyan provenance? How about the mass rape of boys and girls?

How about the constant bombing of hospitals, schools, relief centers and market places? How about the forcible conversion from Christianity to Islam, including the compulsory circumcision of men and women? How about a man-made famine threatening the lives of 2.6 million people?

How about the fact that in the longest "uninterrupted civil war in the world – twice as many Sudanese have perished in the last 18 years than all the war-related deaths suffered by Americans in the past 200 years"?

These quotes are taken from testimony that Roger Winter, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees, has submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee on Africa.

According to Winter, "More than 2 million Sudanese are estimated to have died of causes directly or indirectly linked to war and repressive Sudanese government policies."

Two million – that's as many as Pol Pot murdered in Cambodia 25 years ago.

"Sudan's death toll is larger than the combined fatalities suffered in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia and Algeria," Winter said.

If help finally gets on the way for "the world's hellhole," as the Washington Post labeled Sudan recently, it will be largely due to a grassroots campaign started by Church Alliance for a New Sudan.

On Monday, Diane Knippers, president of Institute on Religion and Democracy, announced plans for a global Christian operation similar to the one that helped fell apartheid in South Africa. IRD is a major player in the new alliance.

In addition to this group, an extraordinary coalition of conservative and liberal forces has kicked into action: Congressional Black Caucus, Christian Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union, Catholic bishops and Gary Bauer's American Values.

The extremist National Islamic Front governing in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, has an Achilles' heel, Roger Winter suggested. "A strategy that threatens Sudan's oil development can quickly have a strong impact on Khartoum, and can bring the NIF to the negotiating table for serious discussions."

The irony is that rich oil deposits, which should be considered a divine gift to southern Sudan, have become "a source of hell," to quote Roman Catholic Bishop Macram Max Gassis of the El Obeid Diocese.

In a document distributed by the Church Alliance, Winter explained that NIF forces and Arab militias were "displacing, slaughtering and enslaving" the inhabitants of the oil-rich areas in central and southern Sudan to "clear" them for exploration.

"The proceeds from the oil are being used … to purchase more advanced and deadly weapons … to implement the 'final solution' in the south."

It so happens that the Sudan's government-owned Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company has international partners, according to Bishop Gassis. They include Talisman Energy of Canada, TotalFina of France, Lundin of Sweden, Petronas of Malaysia, Chinese National Petroleum Co. and Russian corporations.

And here's the Achilles' heel Winter was talking about. "Foreign oil companies have no commitment to the NIF; they seek the oil and the profits. In doing so they choose to ignore or obscure the political and humanitarian costs.

"If U.S. policy toward Sudan threatens the oil and the profits that the oil firms covet, I believe the foreign oil companies themselves will begin to press the NIF to negotiate seriously for a just peace in the South. Khartoum's oil allies, through this approach, can be transformed into advocates for a just peace."

As Secretary of State Colin Powell said about the war, which has already displaced 4.5 million of southern Sudan's 5 million people, "There is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the earth today."

Nothing can describe this tragedy better than the narrative of people directly affected by it. The Rev. Herb McMullan, a priest at Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Va., brought these tales home from a recent fact-finding trip to East Africa, where he met with southern Sudanese church leaders.

Excerpts from McMullen's notes read: "We will tell you what it is like. It is mutilations, our ears, lips, hands, feet gone. It is another generation without education. It is mass rapes – our daughters, many men. It is slavery, the real thing.

"It is running barefoot … before the utterly incessant tracking of the spraying, hissing, whining bullets spitting at our heels from a helicopter gunship. It is our pregnant women in jails so hot that babies in their wombs are essentially poached and are born, of course, dead.

"They have held us down and pierced our lips so hot and through the bloody perforations forced the locking arm of padlocks, which when shut prevent the tortured ones from speaking or eating.

"Oil has brought 50,000 Chinese and Canadians to our doorstep, in collusion with our killers, to get fuel for their cars and guns for Khartoum. If we say Jesus is God we do not eat. We starve within sight of the U.N. planes filled with food you sent us, denied to us by our government.

"One day, government forces came to my brother's home. … They tied his hands behind his back and tied the other end of the rope to their vehicle. They dragged him three miles. His skin was worn off his bones. They poured gas on my brother and set his body on fire."

McMullen, one of the martyred Sudanese Christians' most outspoken advocates in the United States, marveled about the vibrancy of their faith. "All of them expect to die," he told fellow members of the Church Alliance. As so often in the church's history, it flourishes in martyrdom.

"The Sudanese church has interpreted the cross as the sign of victory," McMullen explained.

Is there a more powerful message the church could preach as it commemorates Christ's passion? Those who burn to death, get raped, mutilated, tortured, enslaved and murdered in southern Sudan are for the most part Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics, and they deserve the concern of their brethren in the developed world.

Their fate is more important than campaign financing or, for that matter, the father of Elian Gonzalez, whom the near-bankrupt NCCC jetted from Havana to Washington last summer, doing Fidel Castro a favor.

Half a century ago, the German church had to do penance for having kept quiet in the face of another genocide. History only ever repeats itself in parts, but in this case those parts are becoming clearly visible – in East Africa and over here.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Lately, it concentrated its energies on campaign financing, a topic not covered anywhere in Scripture. While promoting forcefully the McCain-Feingold bill in public pronouncements, NCCC has been curiously mum about the most burning issue Christianity is facing in the...
Wednesday, 04 April 2001 12:00 AM
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