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Senator decries slavery in Sudan; Christians prime target of violence


WASHINGTON (BP)–Government-sponsored slavery in the Sudan, with Christians the primary victims, can be eliminated by the end of the year in the East African country if the United States and other countries will take action, a U.S. senator said Feb. 3.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., called for an end to the “famine-inducing” practices of the Sudanese government and said he is planning to introduce a resolution condemning slavery. Two human rights advocates, Baroness Caroline Cox of the British House of Lords and Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., joined Brownback at a Capitol Hill news conference in decrying the Sudan’s repression of its own citizens.
As awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians overseas has increased the last three years, the Sudan has been cited consistently as a chief perpetrator. The Islamic regime in the capital of Khartoum supports raids by its troops normally of Christian and animist villages in the southern part 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 raids are part of an ongoing civil war between the Khartoum government and the rebel forces of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.
Thousands of people are “branded, beaten, starved and raped at their masters’ whim,” Brownback said. “Forced religious conversion is routinely practiced, with Christians and traditional tribal believers experiencing starvation and whippings until they renounce their own personal faiths.
“It is unacceptable that any country would sponsor such demeaning cruelty against its own people.”
Cox, who has observed the suffering in the southern Sudan during 20 visits, said the Khartoum regime is “committed to violations of human rights of the most extreme kind.” There “should be an international outcry” to equal that against apartheid in South Africa, she said.
Though 2 million people have died in the Sudan, the Clinton administration “has done zip, nothing,” Wolf said. The famine exists in the Sudan because of the policies of the government and the lack of action by western powers and the United Nations, he said. Wolf called on the administration to “get off their duff and do something about it.”
Condemnation of slavery and sanctions on the government are ways the international community could act to help end the practice, Brownback said. Also, food could be provided to the country through nongovernmental organizations that do not need the approval of the Khartoum government, he said.
At least one human rights organization is acting to gain freedom for the slaves. Christian Solidarity International has purchased the freedom of more than 2,500 slaves in the Sudan, according to its Internet website. CSI, based in Zurich, Switzerland, used funds provided by North American and European supporters to redeem 1,050 slaves at $50 apiece during a six-day period in January, The Washington Times reported.
A member of Brownback’s staff spent eight days in the Sudan recently, returning with photos of redeemed slaves that were displayed at the news conference. One showed a boy with a brand on one arm.