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NCC General Secretary Arrested in Protest Outside Sudan EmbassyJuly 14, 2004, Washington, D.C. -- In an act of civil disobedience and protest of the genocide unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, was arrested outside of the Sudanese Embassy here today. Dr. Edgar presented himself for arrest as part of a campaign to call attention to what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today and to mobilize U.S. and world action to stop it.
The campaign, coordinated by Christian Solidarity International, includes daily noontime demonstrations in front of the Sudanese Embassy that began June 30. It is pressing Congress to pass House Concurrent Resolution 467 declaring genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and calling on the Bush Administration to lead an international intervention, impose targeted sanctions on the Sudanese government and establish a humanitarian aid fund.
At today’s protest, about 50 participants, including many children, marched outside of the embassy to demand that the government of Sudan stop attacks by its military and proxy militia against civilians in Darfur. The Rev. Dr. Walter Fauntroy, Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a former member of Congress, led the demonstration, which ended shortly after Dr. Edgar and Dr. Carole Burnett, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Christianity at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology in Baltimore, were arrested. Drs. Edgar and Burnett were taken to a local police station, fined and released.
According to the United Nations, tens of thousands of people have died and more than one million people in the region have been displaced in an apparent attempt at ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s Darfur region. Refugees are living in makeshift camps, where mass rape of women and girls is common, living conditions are deplorable and diseases such as cholera, meningitis and polio threaten to take the lives of infants, children and the elderly. If nothing is done to prevent it, countless thousands will die in the weeks and months ahead.
“It is clear that a genocide is unfolding in Sudan,” Dr. Edgar said today. “In April 2004, as the world commemorated the tragic Rwandan genocide of 1994, we all said we would never allow this to happen again. Yet we are faced today with another horror that is clearly preventable. The National Council of Churches joins with people of goodwill throughout the world who want to end the needless deaths of countless innocent Sudanese citizens.
"Getting arrested for this cause is the very least one could do to bring attention to the urgency of this situation. The solution rests at the door of the government of Sudan -- and also at the feet of the international community. We must face the fact that time grows dangerously short for action. As our governments hesitate to do what is right, the loss of precious lives accelerates with each passing week."
Dr. Burnett commented, “No thinking and feeling person can be indifferent to the magnitude of the crisis in the Sudan.” She prayed alongside Dr. Edgar as the two were arrested by the Secret Service. Congressman Charles Rangel (NY) was arrested yesterday and the Rev. Fauntroy last week. Additional acts of disobedience are planned.
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