The Executive Board of the National Council of Churches USA unanimously approved and adopted a call on its member churches to “intensify their effort” to stop the violence in western Sudan, during its spring meeting in Chicago, Illinois, May 17-18, 2004.
Since several months prior, the NCC, along with other church and humanitarian groups, noted a possible genocide sprouting in Dafur, Sudan. To date, tens of thousands of lives have been claimed in the violent attacks, and over a million people have been displaced from their homes.
The Board’s new resolution reaffirms and extends the Board’s 2002 resolution on the crisis in Sudan, and explicitly calls on the Sudanese government to bring and end to the practice immediately.
The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to take action and “continue to press the Sudanese government to bring to a halt this unfolding horror and to support appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, conflict resolution and peace enforcement efforts by the United Nations to these ends.”
Insofar as the international community, the resolution asks that these non-governmental organizations investigate the ‘crimes against humanity’ that is occurring in Sudan, and to prevent another ‘Rwanda” from occurring again.
Last month, the NCC and the World Council of Churches jointly sponsored a public event commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the brutal Rwanda genocide. In a period of less than 100 days, some 1 million people were murdered in the African country, as the international community stood by and watched.
“Ten years ago, in Rwanda, in front of the civilized world, one million people were slaughtered. The same thing is happening now in Sudan. The NCC must take this very seriously and do something,” said Bishop Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America.
The Armenian people also recently observed the 89th observance of their people’s genocide – between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed and 1 million were forcefully deported.
“My family is victim of the first genocide of the 20th century,” scattered to the far corners of the earth, said Aykazian. “I am very much concerned when I see that people in other nations now are being massacred as well – in Sudan, simply because they are black.”
The Board reflected the sentiments of Aykazian, saying that the genocides of the 20th century must not be carried on to the next millennium.
“Knowing the history of genocide in the 20th century, beginning with the Armenian Genocide through the Jewish Holocaust and ending with the Rwandan Genocide, we are appalled that this legacy of death and destruction should be carried into the 21st century,” the Board stated.
On a positive note, the Board commended the actions of several of its member bodies that have already taken action to halt the violence in Sudan. They also “prayerfully considered further actions they might take, individually and together as the NCC, conducive to the establishment of peace in Sudan,” according to the NCC press release.
Finally, the General Secretary of the NCC, Bob Edgar, urged the U.S. churches to remember, “This is an urgent moment,” and to take action in Sudan despite the “current preoccupation with Iraq, the elections, the Middle East and the U.S. economy.
The National Council of Churches is the largest ecumenical church body in the U.S. with 36 member bodies that has a cumulative membership of over 50 million in America.