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Senators urge stronger action from
Bush on protecting people of Darfur

WASHINGTON (BP)–Prominent United States senators from both political parties have called on President Bush to press more forcefully for protection for the beleaguered people of Darfur in Sudan.

In doing so, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.-N.Y., signed an oversized postcard to the president to signify the “Million Voices for Darfur” campaign had reached its goal of one million postcards to the White House.

At a news conference in the U.S. Capitol, Frist announced his support for the presidential appointment of a special envoy to handle the crisis in western Sudan, while Clinton reiterated her call for such a representative. The hostilities in Darfur have resulted in about 400,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people, according to estimates.

The human rights crisis in Darfur began more than three years ago after rebel forces attacked government bases. Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed and supported by the Islamic regime in the capital of Khartoum, responded by instituting ethnic cleansing against African Muslims, resulting in rampant killing, rape, torture and kidnapping, as well as the destruction of hundreds of villages.

Unlike Sudan’s two-decades-old, north-south conflict that was based largely on religious differences, the Darfur hostilities primarily were based on ethnic differences.

Frist said, “[N]ow is the time for us to deliver on [the] hope” the Senate offered two years ago when it described the Khartoum-backed campaign in Darfur as “genocide.”

Calling action on Darfur a “moral duty,” Clinton said at the June 29 news conference, “We haven’t fulfilled our responsibility. We need action as soon as possible.”

She pointed to Khartoum’s failure the previous week to meet a deadline for establishing a date for disarming the Janjaweed. A May 5 peace agreement between the Sudanese government and Darfur’s largest rebel group called for the Janjaweed to be disarmed by mid-October. Two other rebel factions, however, refused to sign the pact.

While Bush has been commended for his attention to Sudan, the Save Darfur Coalition is urging him to take a “consistently stronger leadership role,” said Gloria White-Hammond, the coalition’s chairwoman. In addition to encouraging the president to appoint a special envoy, the coalition called for the president to use his influence with the United Nations for a multinational, peacekeeping force to provide protection for the displaced people in Darfur.

The Save Darfur Coalition sponsored the postcard campaign, which was promoted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The ERLC also distributed DVDs on Darfur and the campaign to ethics leaders in Baptist state conventions.

ERLC President Richard Land spoke at an April 30 rally on the National Mall in Washington that was sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition and attended by tens of thousands of people.

Messengers to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution commending Bush and the U.S. government for seeking a solution to the crisis in Darfur. It also called on the Sudanese government to disband the Janjaweed in order that a U.N. force might have full access to the region and to surrender those guilty of atrocities in Darfur.

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