Pastoral Letter from Disciples and UCC Leaders – Sudan: A Responsibility to Protect
Leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the USA and Canada and the United Church of Christ, join together to express concern for the people of Sudan.
March 7, 2007
As leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the USA and Canada and the United Church of Christ, we join together to express our concern for the people of Sudan. As Christians, we realize that we must share in the responsibility to protect human life.
On 9 January 2005 an historic event occurred in the life of the Sudan. The government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. With the Peace agreement came an end to 21 years of conflict between northern and southern Sudan and the hope for peace in Darfur. However, for the past three years we have witnessed, with growing concern, the escalation of violence and death in the Darfur region of Sudan. Since 2003, over 450,000 people have died and we mourn the unnecessary loss of so many lives. We despair for the lives of over 2.5 million displaced Darfuris who are currently surviving in refugee camps.
We urge the Khartoum government to accept and live up to its responsibilities as a sovereign state to provide for the protection and security of all its citizens. The current actions of the Sudanese government have created the abhorrent conditions under which the displaced must live because access to humanitarian aid has been severely hampered. We find unconscionable, the raiding, pillaging and burning of villages and the rape, torture and other violent actions committed by the militia group, the Janjaweed.
God speaks loudly and unequivocally to preserve the life of the vulnerable. The Psalmist declares that the blood of the needy is precious in God’s sight and it is they whose life is redeemed from oppression and violence (Ps. 72:12 – 14). It is this oppression and violence that has moved the United Nations to call the situation in Darfur “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.”
The safety and security of the people of Darfur are our primary concern. We believe that the protection of the civilian population can best be served through a comprehensive diplomatic effort. Specifically, we encourage more thorough and effective peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and all Darfurian rebel groups as well as the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. There can be no peace in the Sudan unless there is a vision of tolerance and appreciation of the diversity of all the people.
Therefore, we are calling on the United States government to make Sudan/Darfur a priority in its foreign policy. As a result, we are urging the Bush administration to work with the international community to bring about the compliance of the Sudanese government in implementing the United Nations plan for an expanded peace-keeping presence in Darfur, with an explicit mandate to protect civilians. This will ensure adequate access for humanitarian agencies to deliver critically needed assistance, including food, to the internally displaced. We understand that as part of this shift in policy priority, the United States should take the lead in increasing development assistance to all of southern Sudan to bolster their level of development because peace in Darfur is inextricably linked to the economic and political stability of the rest of the country.
It is with much thought, prayer and deliberation and with a deep sense of urgency that we are calling for these actions by our government. We have heard the cries of the innocent and we feel compelled to stand in solidarity with the Sudanese people.
We affirm the “Promoting Peace for All in the Sudan” resolution passed by our two church bodies in 2005. In it, we called for the Sudanese government to cease hostile actions against civilians, to end support for militant groups committing violence and to engage in immediate efforts to end the crisis.
These actions have not occurred and as a result we are calling on the U.S. government to use its relationship with governments around the world to “internationalize” pressure on the government of Sudan and create a united front for new and urgent action to protect and ensure safe delivery of aid to the innocent.
Further, the United States, through the United Nations Security Council, should encourage the Sudanese government to end the impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan/Darfur by supporting the efforts of the International Criminal Court to indict and prosecute perpetrators.
We urge members of our two churches and all those who are compelled to stand in solidarity with the people of the Sudan/Darfur to continue to pray, study and discern. We encourage action in all forms:
- Participate in our two churches’ Dear Sudan campaign.
- Give generously to Week of Compassion (WOC) and One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) special appeals to support efforts to deliver humanitarian relief and supplies to the region and efforts to aid the internally displaced in Sudan/Darfur.
- Visit regularly the Global Ministries website for updates, resources and links to other sites.
- Join Church World Service’s letter writing campaign.
- Sign up for the Disciples Justice Action Network and the UCC Take Action through Justice and Witness Ministries.
We firmly believe that 1 John 3:18 is calling us to love not only in word or speech, but in truth and action and that God’s spirit is calling for peace and justice on behalf of the people of Sudan/Darfur. Let us heed God’s call for lasting peace during this Lenten season.
The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
|Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President,
United Church of Christ
|Rev. David Vargas
Division of Overseas Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Co-Executive of Global Ministries
|Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte
Wider Church Ministries
United Church of Christ
Co-Executive of Global Ministries