A New Release from The Institute on Religion and Democracy:
November 30, 2004
Contact: Faith J. H. McDonnell 202.969.8430
Sudan Council of Churches USA Sends Team to Minister to Darfurian Refugees: IRD’s Church Alliance for a New Sudan Commends Extraordinary Act of Forgiveness
Until current peace talks brought a ceasefire, black African Muslims of Darfur were recruited by the Sudanese government to wage war against southern Sudanese. Now Christians from the south are reaching out to their former persecutors in love, forgiveness, and mercy.
Earlier this month the Sudan Council of Churches USA (SCCUSA), a
fledgling group of 38 Sudanese congregations of different denominations around the United States, launched “Sudan Mercy,” a ministry to the Sudanese of Darfur. A four-member team flew to Chad Sunday, November 21, on an eleven-day exploratory mission. The team is comprised of its leader, the Rev. Daniel Deng Kuot, a former Lost Boy now living in Omaha; James Telar and Tereza Dud, Sudanese from the Kansas City area; and Kansas surgeon Dr. Katie Rhoads. They are delivering emergency relief aid to refugees and assessing future possibilities for long-term teams.
Sudan Mercy was birthed at an SCCUSA executives meeting at Christ Church, Overland Park, Kansas, in August 2004. “Although they knew they themselves could be targeted by the Arab janjaweed and government soldiers, southern Sudanese stepped forward saying they would go to Darfur, even if it cost their lives,” marveled Christ Church’s Pastor of Mission, the Rev. Tom Prichard.
Prichard worked with the Sudanese to plan the mission. “I asked Pastor Paul Ater (executive director of the SCCUSA) if the Darfurians had indeed been the persecutors of the southern Sudanese,” he relayed. Ater explained the Sudan government’s philosophy was “use a slave to kill a slave.” Therefore, the “expendable” black African Muslims of Darfur swelled the ranks of the Sudanese Army, responsible for the death of over two million southern Sudanese. Abraham Beny, head of the Lost Boys organization in the Kansas City area exemplified the attitude of the southern Sudanese when he declared that even though Darfurians killed his entire family, he wanted to go and help the lost boys and girls of Darfur. Beny will participate in one of the longer term missions.
In September the SCCUSA issued a statement of solidarity with the besieged people of Darfur: “We understand the terror experienced by the people of Darfur when their villages are bombed or strafed with helicopter gunfire. We understand the agony of displacement, starvation, disease, and death that has devastated Darfur. We understand the horror of rape and slavery wreaked by militia like the janjaweed, who hate you because you are black abid. Coming from all over southern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere, we have experienced this same terror, and the death of over 2.5 million of our people.” The statement thanks Secretary of State Colin Powell for his declaration of genocide in Darfur. It also calls on the United Nations to “manifest the same integrity and truthfulness.”
In a letter in the Kansas City Star on November 7, Pastor Ater wrote, “We believe that God is calling us to reach out….We want to do all we can to get them food, water, medicine, and clothing, and most importantly, hope and forgiveness. They are God’s children, and they are suffering terrible injustice.” He explained the SCCUSA’s need for financial support for Sudan Mercy, saying, “We are recent refugees and, although our determination to help is great, our resources are very limited.” Ater concluded that just as the people of Kansas City had helped them in their moment of greatest need, they were determined to help the people of Darfur.
IRD’s Church Alliance for a New Sudan (CANS) commends the leaders of the Sudan Council of Churches USA for their generosity and the powerful witness of their forgiveness. “While the United Nations dithers and issues impotent statements, these southern Sudanese, themselves victims of Sudanese government-sponsored genocide as well as UN and world apathy, are doing something for the Darfurians,” declared CANS director, Faith McDonnell.
“Through Sudan Mercy, the southern Sudanese have more of an opportunity to show the character of God to the world than anyone else today,” added Prichard. He told of how Daniel Deng Kuot received a telephone call from the leader of the Sudanese Muslims in Nebraska who had heard about Sudan Mercy. He asked Daniel to “please, please forgive us for what we did to you for so many years.” Prichard believes that the response to this show of love will be even greater in the refugee camps. “This is a moment for healing,” he declared.