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National Council of Churches Joins with 'Save Darfur' Coalition
To Observe August 25 as 'Sudan: Day of Conscience'

New York City, August 3, 2004 --  The Save Darfur Coalition, composed of National Council of Churches and 70 other faith-based, humanitarian and secular civic organizations, has identified Wednesday, August 25, 2004 as Sudan: Day of Conscience. On that day, communities across North America are urged to engage in interfaith activities designed to raise public awareness about the growing genocide in Darfur and to demand that the international community take immediate and decisive action to stop the killing, the rape, and the destruction of villages, and to assure that humanitarian relief reaches all those in need.

If it is not feasible to hold such activities on August 25, groups are urged to schedule them on a date that works best for their communities.  The announcement is being sent not only to Christian communions, but to Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities nationwide through their respective communications networks.

The National Council of Churches is represented on the steering committee of the coalition by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary for International Affairs, who expressed the Council's  appreciation to the American Jewish World Service and the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, who served as the co-conveners of a July 14 summit, which led to the creation of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Background

The emergency in Sudan’s northwestern region of Darfur presents the starkest challenge to the world since the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Government-backed militias, known as the Janjaweed, have been engaging in campaigns to displace and wipe out entire communities of tribal farmers. Villages have been razed, women and girls are systematically raped and branded, men and boys murdered, and food and water supplies specifically targeted and destroyed. Government aerial bombardments support the Janjaweed by hurling explosives as well as barrels of nails, car chassis and old appliances from planes to crush people and property.

Tens of thousands have died. Well over a million have been driven from their homes, and only in the past few weeks have humanitarian agencies had limited access to a portion of the affected region. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that 350,000 people or more could die in the coming months. Ongoing assessments by independent organizations such as Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) suggest that USAID’s estimate may be conservative. If aid is denied or unavailable, as many as a million people could perish. Lives are hanging in the balance on a massive scale.

Interfaith Program Ideas

In an effort to raise awareness and ultimately engage our own country and the international community to take actions to stop this unfolding genocide, coalition members, including the National Council of Churches, are encouraging interfaith activities in local communities across the country. Such activities might include the following ideas:

1. Organize an interfaith service or vigil;

2. Hold a press conference to demonstrate endorsement by your local religious leaders of the joint “Unity Statement and Call to Action” issued on August 2 by the coalition;

3. Encourage city councils, county boards, and state houses to adopt a proclamation on the crisis in Sudan;

4. Meet with members of Congress as an interfaith delegation (both the House and Senate voted unanimously to name the killing in Darfur as a genocide and to condemn it);

5. Collect 1,000 signatures on the ‘Call for Action: Stop Atrocities in Sudan’ petition, which would bring attention to the 1,000 dying in Darfur each week;

6. Prepare joint op-ed pieces and letters to the editor;

7. Put together a photo exhibit featuring pictures from Darfur;

8. Help in the relief efforts by supporting organizations giving aid, such as Church World Service.

Resources

To read the coalition’s “Unity Statement,” as well as the “Call for Action” petition, click here.

For other resources, such as the prayers, sample op-ed pieces, and photos for an exhibit, as well as additional resources, please check the coalition’s website, www.savedarfur.org, scheduled to be available by August 4.

For a complete history of actions taken by the NCC to date on the crisis, please see the Council's Index of  Resources on the Sudan Crisis.

 


NCC contact for additional information: Tony Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace, 212-870-3422; tonyk@ncccusa.org

Coalition contacts: David Rubenstein, 202-368-6100 or david@savedarfur.org; Ronni Strongin, 212-273-1657 or rstrongin@ajws.org.   The coalition website, www.savedarfur.org.


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