WASHINGTON (BP)–More than 200 representatives of churches, religious groups, colleges and human rights organizations have called on President Clinton to use his voice and authority to help bring about peace in Sudan, the scene of some of the world’s worst forms of religious persecution.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and several Baptist state leaders signed on to the letter seeking Clinton’s involvement in ending a campaign of terror against Christians and others.
In the last decade, about 2 million people have died in a civil war between the militant Islamic regime in Khartoum and the rebel forces of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and as a result of war-related causes. The regime supports raids by its troops against Christian and animist villages, but sometimes even of moderate Muslim areas, in the southern and central parts of the country. The soldiers frequently kill men and kidnap women and children to take them back as slaves to the northern Sudan or another country. The troops also burn crops and slaughter livestock. The regime conducts bombing campaigns, with hospitals among the targets. At least 100,000 Sudanese are estimated to have died of starvation last year as a result of the regime’s intentional withholding of food aid to its people. From 4 million to 5 million have had to flee their homes.
The letter asks the president to take a “visible, personal stance on the genocide now taking place in Sudan” and to enforce an executive order he previously issued. It also calls on Clinton to support the Sudan Peace Act, a congressional measure that would condemn the human rights violations in the east African country, increase pressure for the United Nations to act and reform relief efforts so assistance would reach the victims of the National Islamic Front.
“Your voice above all others — declaring to the world the reality of Sudan’s agony — will be heard and heeded,” the Dec. 9 letter to Clinton states. “We implore you, in the names of countless lost Sudanese, to raise the profile of Sudan and to add your public voice and leadership to ensuring the success” of the peace process.
“Either America leads the way towards peace at this crucial historical juncture, or an unspeakable catastrophe evident to all will take its final, dreadful toll in a century already defined too fully by indifference and genocide,” the letter says.
The appeal asks Clinton to meet publicly with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and those familiar with the Sudanese regime’s practices in order to bring attention to the problem.
The signers request that the president enforce a 1997 executive order to help prevent the Khartoum regime from receiving millions of dollars in oil revenue annually to underwrite its military campaign. That order, which imposed economic sanctions against Sudan, should be interpreted or amended to block the government-owned China National Petroleum Corporation from “access to U.S. capital markets” as long as CNPC is a partner in a new oil pipeline in the Sudan that provides revenue to the Khartoum regime. CNPC is seeking a listing on the New York Stock Exchange and an initial public offering of stock.
The letter also calls on Clinton to discuss with Canada’s prime minister, Jean Chretien, the involvement in the Sudan oil project of Canadian oil company Talisman Energy Inc. Talisman has provided funding, technology and personnel for the pipeline. The letter asks the president to endorse the campaign by pension funds and investors to divest Talisman stock. It also requests Clinton investigate possible violations of his 1997 executive order by American companies.
In addition to Land, 10 representatives of Baptist state conventions and three other ERLC staff members signed the letter. Included were state executive directors O.W. Efurd of Hawaii and Jere Phillips of West Virginia.
Others signing the letter included four members of the International Religious Freedom Commission, Elliott Abrams, Nina Shea, Charles Smith and Michael Young; former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong; Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson; Prayer for the Persecuted Church President Steven Haas; Presbyterian pastor D. James Kennedy; Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Clifton Kirkpatrick; Institute on Religion and Democracy President Diane Knippers; National Association of Evangelicals President Kevin Mannoia; President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church Robert Morgan; and Institute on Religion and Public Life President Richard John Neuhaus.
The International Religious Freedom Commission, which was established by last year’s International Religious Freedom Act, has chosen Sudan as one of three countries it will focus on in its first year of work.
The Senate adopted the Sudan Peace Act in November, but the House of Representatives has yet to vote on it.