Mission Leaders Call for International Peacekeeping
to Avoid “Ethnic Cleansing” in Region of Sudan
by Elliott Wright
Pittsburgh, PA, April 28, 2004—The top mission executive of The United Methodist Church today called for an international peacekeeping effort in the Sudan, where government-supported militia have caused the death and displacement of millions of people.
The Rev. R. Randy Day made the appeal from the site of The United Methodist Church’s 2004 General Conference, a quadrennial legislating meeting of the denomination that has 10 million members worldwide.
In a related move, Bishop Joseph Humper of Sierra Leone, a director of the General Board of Global Ministries, sent a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, urging quick UN action to ward off a human catastrophe in Sudan. The bishop is chair of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation in Sierra Leone, which is trying to repair disruptions caused by civil conflicts in his country.
“Christians, including United Methodists, cannot stand idly by as the shadow of what may become genocide spreads,” Day said, appealing to church members to join their voices to call for international action to stop the carnage in Sudan. He also asked United Methodists to contribute to the Church’s effort to care for refugees, many of whom are finding their way into the neighboring country of Chad.
The Sudan Council of Churches and Norwegian Church Aid on April 27 issued an emergency appeal for refugee assistance. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is engaged with other agencies in ministering to refugees who have moved into the nation of Chad.
“We must engage in all productive efforts for peace and we must reach out to victims in the name of Jesus Christ and to be agents of the Prince of Peace for combatants on all sides,” Day said.
The conflict is focused in the Darfur area of southern Sudan, where Islamic militants, which have backing from the government, continue to harass other populations despite a formal cease fire.
Bishop Humper compared what is happening in Darfur to what happened a decade ago in Rwanda, when a government-backed, ethnically-based campaign killed 800,000 people. He asked the UN Secretary General to use the “strengths of your office to promote peace, stability, and fair treatment of all ethnic groups in Sudan.”
The Pittsburgh statement was the second in a month from the head of the United Methodist mission agency. Day noted that the conflict shows no signs of abating. The United Nations continues to report the displacement of large numbers of people.
Day asked United Methodists in the United States to join in a campaign sponsored by Church World Service to win public support for congressional measures aimed at stepping up United Nations’ investigation of the situation. Noting that the UN High Commission on Human Rights is organizing a fact-finding mission, Day said that increased messages to Congress will strengthen the cause of peace and show support for the international solution in Sudan.
“The suffering of the people of Sudan is enormous.” Day said. “The UN states that two million Sudanese have died and four million out of a population of 29 million are internally displaced. “The root causes…include disputes over resources, power, the role of religion in the state and self-determination”. The fact-finding mission from the UN High Commissioner’s Office has spent time in neighboring Chad and noted that in the past year at least 110,000 people have fled from Darfur. Other UN sources say that 700,000 people are internally displaced in Darfur and that there are atrocities committed which include killings and destruction of towns, villages, schools, wells and food supplies.
An official of the United States Agency for International Development on April 27 said that black Africans in Sudan were victims of “ethnic cleansing.”
The mission leader appealed to United Methodists worldwide to directly contact United Nations officials on behalf of greater peace efforts in Sudan. He expressed hope that the African Union, an umbrella organization, would move swiftly to set up a regional peacekeeping force.
The full text of Day’s statement follows:
A Call for Peacekeeping in Sudan
R. Randy Day
An international peacekeeping effort is urgently needed in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, and speedy attention must be given to the situation of refugees uprooted by fighting that continues despite a formal cease fire.
United Methodists worldwide have an opportunity to call for an international response to halt a grave humanitarian crisis caused by bitter political, economic and inter-ethnic conflict. They can also respond to the needs of displaced persons.
The struggle in Sudan is primarily between government-supported Islamic militants and more moderate Muslims and other groups, some of which are organized into “liberation” movements. An official of the United States’ Agency for International Development (USAID) on April 27 said the militia were engaged in “ethnic cleansing” against black Africans.
Ethnic and cultural conflicts in Sudan are not new but seem to be growing worse. Vast numbers of people have been uprooted and killed in the current round of hostilities. The United Nations reported on April 18 that “at least 50,000 people have fled their homes in recent weeks because of militia attacks and fighting” between the two sides.
I am hopeful that the African Union, which is investigating the ongoing conflict, will organize a regional peacekeeping force that may be able to move swiftly to achieve stability. I also hope that this effort will receive the fullest support from the United Nations Security Council including the USA.
I urge church members in the United States to lend their support to a Sudanese Peace Initiative organized by Church World Service, the ecumenical relief agency representing 36 denominations. The focus of the appeal is support for congressional resolutions that pressure the United Nations to investigate the situation in Darfur. While the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on April 20 that a fact-finding mission will be allowed into Darfur, continuing messages to Congress will strengthen the cause of peace and show support for the international approach.
United Methodists around the world can affirm the UN High Commissioner’s mission and also contact other officials of the United Nations urging peacekeeping initiatives in Sudan. (Information on how to engage in peace advocacy for Sudan is given below).
Church members can also support the emergency efforts of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) as it responds to Sudanese refugees in neighboring Chad. (The Advance number for the Sudan Emergency is 184385).
The suffering of the people of Sudan is enormous. The UN states that two million Sudanese have died and four million out of a population of 29 million are internally displaced. “The root causes…include disputes over resources, power, the role of religion in the state and self-determination”. The fact-finding mission from the UN High Commissioner’s Office has spent time in neighboring Chad and noted that in the past year at least 110,000 people have fled from Darfur. Other UN sources say that 700,000 people are internally displaced in Darfur and that there are atrocities committed which include killings and destruction of towns, villages, schools, wells and food supplies.
Christians, including United Methodists, cannot stand idly by as the shadow of what may become genocide spreads. We must engage in all productive efforts for peace and we must reach out to victims in the name of Jesus Christ and to be agents of the Prince of Peace for combatants on all sides.
How to engage in promotion of peacekeeping in Sudan:
Worldwide: Send a message commending the efforts of the UN Commission on Human Rights, e-mail, email@example.com; FAX + 41 22 917 9022; airmail: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland; urge action by the UN Security Council by contacting the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, United Nations, Room 2-3800, NY, NY 10017.
United States: Contact the international organizations above and also representatives in Congress, asking that they support House Concurrent Resolution 403 (introduced by Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia) and Senate Concurrent Resolution 99 (introduced by Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas). These resolutions call upon the United Nations to investigate “crimes against humanity” in the Darfur region; also contact the US Representative to the UN, Ambassador John Negroponte at 212 415-4000.
Contribute to Relief and Refugee Efforts by UMCOR: Advance #184385. Contributions can be sent to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115.
Date posted: Apr 28, 2004