News Articles

Christians must stand for Sudanese if they are to be obedient, Land says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptists and other American Christians must act on behalf of the victims of the Sudan government’s “genocidal war” if they are to be obedient to God, Richard Land said Sept. 24 at a prayer vigil outside the State Department’s offices in Washington.

“If we are going to be faithful to Scripture, we are going to have to take this up as our cause,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “I believe God will hold us accountable” for “our ease in Zion” while the Sudanese suffer, he said.

Land directed his comments to Southern Baptists and others from the Washington area on the final day of a weeklong prayer vigil for Sudan at Galvez Park, located adjacent to the State Department. He spoke during a two-hour event organized by the ERLC, one of the groups assisting in the vigil.

The conflict in Sudan is largely a religious one. The militant Islamic regime ruling over Sudan has waged what has been widely described as a genocidal campaign against Christians, animists and moderate Muslims in the southern and central regions of the African country.

The Khartoum-supported effort has included slave raids and the bombardment of hospitals, churches, schools and relief stations. It also has consisted of the rape of women and children, as well as the forcible conversion to Islam of children and starvation for Sudanese who refuse to convert. During a civil war of two decades, more than 2 million people have been killed and about 4.5 million people have been displaced.

The purposes of the vigil included demonstrating solidarity with the persecuted in Sudan, prayer for the Sudanese who are suffering and calling for the United States government to be active in seeking an end to the Khartoum regime’s oppression.

Christians should obey the command in Hebrews 13 to “Remember them that are in bonds,” Land said. That means, he said:

— Be aware of and pray for the persecuted in Sudan.

— Pray that God “will give us a burden to feel what they feel.”

— Put “hands and feet and tongues to our prayers.”

American Christians should pressure the government and the media in order to bring about justice and peace in Sudan.

While the United States’ concern is the only reason anything is being done about Sudan’s woes, the American government should be doing more, and Christians should “demand and expect” it to do more, Land said.

“This is something that will only change when public opinion in America forces it to change,” he said.

Individual Christians should take up the cause of the Sudanese, but it also should be addressed in Sunday School classes and in the pulpit, Land said.

“We must not flag in our efforts,” he said. “We are to do all we can to stop the persecution, to stop the torture, to stop the slavery, to stop the rape.”

Land issued a challenge to Muslims who are American citizens: “Denounce the atrocities that are being perpetrated in the name of your faith.”

Leaders of the Sudanese regime and the resistance movement agreed in July to a framework for a peace process. Those negotiations have been halted, according to recent reports.

Even during the negotiations, there were reports the Islamic government’s forces continued to attack Sudanese in the south. Islamic troops killed about 1,500 people and displaced about 350,000 in a late July effort, according to the Church Alliance for a New Sudan, a division of the Institute on Religion and Democracy that sponsored the prayer vigil.

The Sudan Embassy in Washington charged that the Church Alliance’s efforts, including the vigil, would undermine the peace process. “Prayers of Christians and Muslims should be directed toward peacemaking and reconciliation, rather than divisions, mistrust and hatred that would only contribute to more killing and blood shedding in Sudan and the region,” the embassy said in a written statement Sept. 19.

The Church Alliance denied the charges. “If there is any undermining of the peace process going on, the continued genocide perpetrated against the southern Sudanese population is a more likely cause than a peaceful prayer vigil in Washington. If there is any hatred acted upon, it is that of an Islamist regime committed to the eradication of religious minorities in Sudan,” the alliance said Sept. 20 in a prepared statement.

Supporters of stronger American action regarding Sudan are seeking to gain action in Congress before it adjourns in October. The Senate and House of Representatives have adopted different versions of the Sudan Peace Act, but a conference committee has not moved forward with a final report.

The House version is the only one to include language that would bar foreign companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges if they participate in oil development in Sudan. Big business and some in the Bush administration strongly oppose that element of the House version. Profits from oil in Sudan have helped underwrite Khartoum’s military campaign.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., recently offered a compromise that proposes different penalties, including the denial of oil revenues to the government if it refuses to sign a peace agreement within six months.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has described Sudan as “the world’s most violent abuser of religious freedom.” Sudan is one of six countries designated by the State Department as countries of particular concern in the area of religious freedom. The others are Burma, China, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Land is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Participants in the Southern Baptist vigil session, which included Scripture reading, prayer and singing, were staff members of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board and ERLC, as well as ministers from Maryland and Virginia.

Other groups leading sessions during the vigil included the American Anti-slavery Group, Christian Solidarity International, local United Methodist churches, local Episcopal churches, the Jewish community and the Midland (Texas) Alliance for a New Sudan.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SUDAN STANCE.