The Common Good

For God's Sake, Save Darfur

Sojomail - January 18, 2007


"Where does he get off saying my father was a guerrilla? My father was a peasant, tending to his farm. He was tortured and killed and Mancuso was responsible. ... He seemed proud of what they'd done, not remorseful."

- Miryam Areiza, whose father was killed in a 1997 massacre ordered by Salvatore Mancuso, a senior leader of Colombia's right-wing paramiliaries. Mancuso recently confessed to his role - in collaboration with government forces - in the murders of hundreds of people, including peasants, union leaders, and mayors. (Source: Guardian)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

For God's Sake, Save Darfur

The genocide in Darfur continues to weigh heavily on my heart. After months and months of talk, it is increasingly clear that there are no real strategies for peace among any of the major players.

Last week, there was a glimmer of hope when New Mexico's governor, Bill Richardson, visited Khartoum on a trip sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition. In a meeting with President al-Bashir, Richardson was able to secure his agreement to a 60-day cease-fire, which is intended to stop the violence in the short term and create a window for further negotiation. And while al-Bashir remained unmoved in his objection to the U.N. peacekeeping force authorized in August of last year, there were some indications he might allow U.N. personnel and equipment. Richardson also reported that al-Bashir is aware of, and deeply affected by, his unfavorable international reputation. This is a testimony to the reach and influence of the growing grassroots movement to end the genocide.

The cease-fire was welcomed by many, including the World Evangelical Association, whose International Director Geoff Tunnicliffe said, "We applaud this significant step toward peace in Darfur. We truly hope this process will lead to end the suffering of the people in Darfur." That is what we all hope and pray. But only a few days later, news stories reported that the Darfur rebels say the Sudanese government has bombed their area despite the truce, although the report was denied by the government.

And, yesterday in Nairobi, 13 U.N. humanitarian agencies released a Joint Statement on Darfur. They noted:

Access to people in need in December 2006 was the worst since April 2004. The repeated military attacks, shifting frontlines, and fragmentation of armed groups compromise safe humanitarian access and further victimize civilians who have borne the brunt of this protracted conflict. In the last six months alone, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting, many of them fleeing for the second or third time. Villages have been burnt, looted and arbitrarily bombed and crops and livestock destroyed. Sexual violence against women is occurring at alarming rates. This situation is unacceptable. Nor can we accept the violence increasingly directed against humanitarian workers. Twelve relief workers have been killed in the past six months – more than in the previous two years combined.

The statement concluded:

If this situation continues, the humanitarian operation and welfare of the population it aims to support will be irreversibly jeopardised. ... The humanitarian community cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population ...

Just before Christmas, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and I met with Bobby Pittman, the National Security Council's director for African affairs, on behalf of Evangelicals for Darfur. Mr. Pittman was positive and responsive as we urged that the administration move quickly from words to strong, real, action. He assured us of the president's commitment on this issue, and readily agreed that much more needs to be done. We then discussed a series of strong steps: Maximum political and diplomatic pressure should be used to force Sudan to accept additional peacekeepers. Efforts to secure the cooperation of other key National Security Council nations must be increased. Strong actions should be taken against Sudan, including rigorously enforcing sanctions, and targeting sanctions against top government officials. Stronger actions could include a no-fly zone over Darfur and a possible naval blockade. We had complete agreement that only a large and strong multi-national peacekeeping force, with the authority to use "all necessary means," would suffice to end the genocide in Darfur - and that Sudan must be compelled to accept it.

We stressed the importance of making Darfur primary in the president's State of the Union address, with clear words about what we – and the world – will DO in the face of Sudanese intransigence. Deadlines have come and gone, with no real change. The State of the Union should mark the moment for the kind of commitment that is necessary to save Darfur. Next Tuesday, as President Bush delivers his speech, I will be listening for action. For God's sake, save Darfur.

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This weekend, our nation paused once again to remember the life of a modern-day prophet. In pulpits across the country, preachers offered sermons reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King's seemingly timeless message. While Dr. King's words were quoted across the nation, I fear that the majority of Americans only heard a perfunctory mention of King's dream of racial harmony, with barely a mention of his even bolder words against what he called the "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism." Too often our churches are guilty of sanitizing and domesticating King's radical message. We embrace the King of Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, while ignoring the King who boldly and courageously opposed the Vietnam War, arguing that "America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube."

Jim Wallis: Sharing King's Dream with My Sons
To remember the day, and not just take a day off, our family went to the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his best known speech, "I Have a Dream." ... We went to read the speech together, as a family, and I brought along four big-print copies of one of the most significant addresses in American history. As we looked down across the reflecting pool, we could see the image of the sleek white spire of the Washington Monument glistening on the surface of the water. I pointed to both sides of the pool, beyond the trees, and all the way to the Monument, showing my son Luke where the 300,000 people stood and sat who came that day for the biggest march and rally in the nation's history up to that point in time.

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March 16 Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

On March 16, 2007, in observance of the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War, Christians from across the ecumenical spectrum will be converging in Washington, D.C. for a prayerful service at the Washington National Cathdral, followed by a march and prophetic witness for peace at the White House. Visit for more information.

January 27 Anti-War Mobilization

Also, on January 27, United for Peace and Justice is organizing a major anti-war mobilization on the National Mall. + Click here for more details



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