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Southern Baptists among leaders of vigil planned for Sudan

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptists have an opportunity to demonstrate to the United States government their concern for Christians and others persecuted by the militant Islamic regime of Sudan.

A weeklong vigil for Sudan will be held Sept. 18-24 outside the State Department building in Washington. Southern Baptists will be among the groups who will lead a two-hour watch during the vigil. The Southern Baptist-led session will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Eastern time Sept. 24.

The purposes of the vigil include showing solidarity with the persecuted in Sudan, praying for the Sudanese who are suffering and calling for the U.S. government to be active in seeking an end to the Khartoum regime’s oppression.

The 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. During a civil war of two decades, 2 million people have been killed and 5 million people have been displaced.

Leaders of the Khartoum regime and the resistance movement agreed in July to a framework for a peace process. There have been reports the Islamic government’s forces have continued to attack Sudanese in the south, however. Islamic troops killed about 1,500 people and displaced about 350,000 in a late July effort, according to the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which is sponsoring the vigil.

“What the Sudanese government is doing is beyond the pale of civilized behavior in any epoch of history,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “But in the 21st century, with modern mass communication, we know the crimes against humanity that are taking place and that heighten our moral responsibility to protest the Sudanese government’s genocidal policy of seeking to extinguish the non-Muslim community in southern Sudan either by forced conversion to Islam or murder. In light of the atrocities that continue in Sudan, to remain silent would be truly immoral.”

Land plans to participate in the Sept. 24 vigil.

“American citizens must demand that our own government be critically engaged,” said Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Sudan is considered one of the worst violators of religious rights in the world. It 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.

Watches during the vigil are normally from noon to 2 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The vigil will be held at Galvez Park, which is on the north side of the State Department. Other groups leading sessions include 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.

More information on the vigil is available on the Internet at www.ird-renew.org.

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