Feature Article: June 8, 2001
by the Editors of Religion Today
On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee passed H.R. 931, known as The Sudan Peace Act. According to Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA-39) the measure now heads to the House floor and will likely be considered next week. "The Africa Subcommittee, and indeed many Members of Congress, have taken a strong interest in Sudan. We've held several hearings and passed resolutions expressing concern and dismay at the killing and human rights abuses that have occurred in Sudan year-after-year-after-year. The tragedy that has been playing out in Sudan is second to none."
Royce says the Sudan Peace Act does several things. First, it requires companies wishing to raise capital in the United States for operations in Sudan to disclose the nature of those operations and their relationship to violations of religious freedom and other human rights in Sudan.
The bill also urges the Bush Administration to make available $10 million that can be used to help rebuild areas that have been devastated in southern Sudan. And it requires the Administration to develop a contingency plan to operate outside of Operation Lifeline Sudan, "the humanitarian relief effort that has been outrageously manipulated by the Government of Sudan."
According to Tom Tancredo (R-Colo), "Today, we moved one step closer to peace in Sudan by approving a bill that can realistically pass both the House and Senate in a timely fashion."
Christians can help move the bill along, says William Saunders, human rights counsel and senior fellow of human life studies for the Family Research Council. In 1998, Saunders headed an FRC-sponsored trip to Sudan to document the persecution of Christians and visited Sudan again in late 2000.
According to Saunders, "For more than 10 years, the government of Sudan has waged a cruel war against its own citizens, a war that has resulted in the greatest humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the world." The war has claimed nearly 2 million lives and displaced an additional 4 million people.
"Now is the time to take action and contact Congress to pass the Sudan Peace Act," Saunders says.
But, you may wonder, why should Christians care about helping Sudan? It is one of the fastest growing churches in Africa today, yet Sudanese Christians daily face murder, torture, enslavement and even crucifixion. Militant forces consider Sudan the gateway for Islamic expansion into the rest of Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
"Sudan will carry the torch of Islam to all countries, even your own," said Sheik Eltahin, head of Om Duan Bart Koranic School, in the video "Sudan: The Hidden Holocaust." Sheik Hassan Al-Turabi, secretary of the National Islamic Front in Sudan, is also shown saying: "I have no doubt that the Islamic movement now is a strong movement of revival right across this world everywhere. And I am sure that those who are in power, who would like to stop this movement, have no future whatever."
Most of the tension ignited in 1989 when the National Islamic Front (NIF) seized control of Sudan's government and rewrote the constitution based on Sharia - Islamic law. They declared "jihad" or "Holy War" on the Christian "infidels" in the south, says Derek Hammond of Faith in Action.
The Koran teaches Muslims "to kill, to enslave, to annihilate, to mutilate all enemies of Islam, even Christians," Hammond explains.
Brad Phillips, co-producer of "The Hidden Holocaust," says Sudan's war first began in 1955 when the British stopped acting as the colonial ruler there. "When the British left, religious, ethnic, political and tribal tensions that are centuries old were uncorked."
The government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital city, has declared a policy of Islamization and Arabization "which is part of their extremist Islamic agenda to spread their version of Islam at the edge of a sword," Phillips continues. Arabization means the African people living in the south are being forced to adopt the Arab culture, and Islamization means they are being forced to adopt the Muslim religion.
According to Phillips, Sudan has a long Christian legacy that can be traced to the Book of Acts, when an Ethiopian eunuch was converted by the apostle Phillip. In recent decades, the church has experienced tremendous revival and today is one of fastest growing churches in the world.
"More than 2 million evangelical Christians are standing firm in this radical Islamic nation," the late David Drye, who co-produced "The Hidden Holocaust" said on the video.
Phillips and Drye traveled to Sudan in 1998 to produce the documentary. They decided to focus on Sudan, says Phillips, because Drye had shared with him "that is where Christians are actually being crucified and sold into slavery because of their faith in Jesus Christ."
"My eyes were really opened to the suffering and to the people in Sudan, and I was able to see the joy that these people had in the context of suffering," says Phillips of his initial visit. "The Christians there are experiencing the most horrific religious persecution that is occurring today."
The video powerfully captures the carnage: children being whipped and chained for wanting to play instead of learning the Koran; women whose breasts have been cut off so they can't feed their babies; starving and diseased refugees; burnt villages, ruined crops and dead livestock.
Upon his return to the United States, Phillips did not forget about Sudan. As president and founder of The Persecution Project, a ministry to the persecuted and suffering in Africa, he focused his energy on the Sudanese crisis.
The Persecution Project has a two-fold purpose: to educate and equip Christians in America with the facts about what is happening to their brothers and sisters in Africa. "The other part of equation," says Phillips, "is to link Christians with ministries in Sudan and to bolster the Sudanese church.
"By working through the church and by responding to the needs that the church is telling us about, we are able to minister to the whole community," he adds.
This past year the Persecution Project provided relief in the upper Nile, which is the oil region of Sudan. "This is where a scorched earth campaign is being carried out and villages are being totally burned to the ground," says Phillips, who estimates that between 300,000 to 600,000 people are newly displaced. The discovery of oil in this area is a big factor for the ethnic cleansing and scorched earth campaign, he adds. "But religious extremism remains the driving force."
Sudanese Christians are remaining strong in spite of the tremendous adversity. Stephen Matuba, a missionary with Frontline Fellowship, reports the church is growing by 10 percent a year. Even Muslims are attracted by the message of good news and freedom in Christ.
Matuba says "there are more Muslims coming to Christ in Sudan than anywhere else in the world today." The millions of evangelical Sudanese Christians hope to win over their persecutors and expel Islam from their land, he adds.
According to Phillips, Christian leaders in Sudan have witnessed Muslim solidarity and Muslim brotherhood. They told Phillips that Muslims are coming from Iran and Iraq and other places "to kill us in the jihad." That leads them to wonder, "Do our brothers and sisters know about us?"
They have asked Phillips: "Are Christians praying for us? Will they intercede for us? Will they help us?" According to Phillips, they look to America as a Christian nation and "they wonder why we have not responded in the wake of such incredible atrocities."
Phillips urges Christians to get involved. He points to Galatians 6, where Paul tells us to bear one another's burdens, and to Edmund Burke who said, 'All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.'"
by Janet Chismar, Religion Today
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