Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., has a large, simple green sign with white letters facing a well-traveled street: “A Call to Your Conscience: SaveDarfur.org.”
A large postcard with the call to conscience message sits under a magnet on a metal cabinet in our kitchen. On the reverse side is a thank-you letter to my daughter, Elisa, a senior at the University of Tennessee, for a modest contribution to the Save Darfur Coalition. The note says in part: “Your gift will be used to help find peace and security for the people of Darfur.”
Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church, West End Synagogue and Sherith Israel Synagogue have green yard signs with message in white letters: “Not On Our Watch: SaveDarfur.org.”
Hillsboro Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church and a number of other houses of faith have or have had banners or yard signs about Darfur. West End United Methodist Church has a Web page titled “Help Save Darfur Today!” and has made Darfur an advocacy priority.
Meeting in Accra, Ghana, with a large delegation of African participants, the Baptist World Alliance’s general council adopted a resolution on Darfur.
Worldwide Baptists expressed concern in July about “the armed conflicts in Sudan, contrived famines, destruction of communities, lack of transparent truth and accountability and other human rights violations.”
They called on global Baptists to develop partnerships with the Sudanese Baptists and requested that BWA leaders advocate for Darfur through letters to national and international leaders.
Stopping the genocide in Darfur is a consensus moral concern within much of the Christian and Jewish communities of faith. But concern about Darfur hasn’t translated into ending the genocide.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has written often about Darfur. He did so again last week. He said he thought President Bush was “genuinely appalled by the horrors of Darfur … yet he has done little, apparently because he doesn’t know quite what to do.”
With military intervention off the table of options, Kristof made 10 practical suggestions for what Bush should do.
One was for Bush to make a trip to Chad with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and British prime minister, Gordon Brown, with an invitation for China and Egypt to join them with the intent to put pressure on the Sudanese government.
Another suggestion was for the U.S. to persuade China “to suspend arms transfers to Sudan until Khartoum makes a serious effort at peace.”
A third proposal was to enforce the United Nation’s “ban on offensive military flights in Darfur.” Kristof wrote, “[W]hen Sudan bombs a village, we can afterward destroy one of its Chinese-made A-5 Fantan fighter bombers that it keeps in Darfur.”
Darfur needs continuous calls to conscience and concrete action. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed and some 2.5 million have fled their homes. The influx of refugees into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic compounds the humanitarian crisis.
So, what can we do? We can certainly do more than we have. And now, with some hopeful signs about the situation related to Sudan, we need to make Darfur a greater priority.
Visit the Web site of a coalition of faith and human rights groups, Save Darfur, where more information and concrete action ideas are available.
Contact to your congressional representatives and senators during the August recess about the need for real U.S. leadership on Darfur, referencing Kristof’s suggestions.
Ask your area religious institutions—universities, hospitals or foundations—if they are invested in genocide and if so, to divest from companies doing business with Sudan.
Keep Darfur a priority in houses of faith—it’s evidence of our moral conscience.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.