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NCC chief says there is 'no greater imperative'
than ending the genocide in Darfur

Washington, March 1, 2006 -- The world has "no higher priority, no greater imperative" than to end the genocide in Darfur, National Council of Churches USA General Secretary Bob Edgar said today at a press conference organized by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The genocide, including ongoing mass murders and rapes of thousands of people in Sudan's Darfur province, is "the heaviest burden we bear in the 21st century," Edgar said. The press conference followed a meeting of congressional and political leaders with the Save Darfur Coalition. Also participating were David Rubenstein, director of the Save Darfur Coalition, and members of Congress who joined Pelosi on a fact-finding trip to Darfur.

"We need to work in a bipartisan way to move as quickly as possible to stop the violence in Darfur," said Pelosi. "It is time to try and bring people to the table to negotiate, to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, and to honor what we as a nation vowed after Rwanda: that this should never happen again. But here it is again."

Edgar said he had been arrested during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington in July 2004 because "I felt civil disobedience was the appropriate way of calling attention to the agony the National Council of Churches feels when it confronts such unspeakable evil."

The Sudanese government has demonstrated "intractable callousness" by denying that a genocide is going on in Darfur, Edgar said. The U.S. government has termed the tragedy a genocide, and Edgar called on President Bush "to use whatever moral capital he has" to convince world leaders to intervene effectively.

"We all went to Darfur with a sense of deep concern and we all left with a sense of outrage and urgency," Pelosi said. "We unanimously support President Bush's suggestion to commit more international troops to Darfur, and bring hope and security to the region."

The full text of the Edgar and Pelosi statements:

NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar:

The National Council of Churches continues to cry out to those in authority to end the genocide in Darfur. 

In July 2004, while participating in a protest march led by my friend and colleague, the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, I was arrested. The Sudanese government then, as today, insists that there is no genocide going on in Darfur, and that reports of deaths have been exaggerated. In the face of such intractable callousness, I felt that civil disobedience was the appropriate way of calling attention to the agony the National Council of Churches feels when it confronts such unspeakable evil.

Following my arrest, I said, 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."

Nineteen months later, the genocide in Darfur continues. This reality is the heaviest burden we bear in the 21st century. We are here today to declare, once again, that the governments of the world and all people of good will must acknowledge no higher priority, no greater moral imperative, than to take action to stop the killing and end the suffering.

In summary, these are the points we want people of good will to keep in mind:


1.  Genocide IS happening today.  No matter what others may call it, it is genocide.  And the U.S. has recognized it as so. 

2.  Having named the crisis a genocide, there are legal and moral obligations to fulfill.  The US must step up to the plate and LEAD the international community in ending this genocide.  President Bush must use whatever moral capital he has to influence other world leaders. 

3.  The African Union must be supported in its efforts to protect civilians.  More than this, the United Nations must commit resources money, diplomacy and peacekeepers in order to disarm the Janjaweed and try to restore some semblance of stability to the region. 

4.  The NCC USA has long been at the religious forefront of this struggle to end the genocide in Darfur.  A Governing Board resolution named it a genocide in May 2004.  A Faithful America initiative helped influence the US Congress to do the same.  The NCC USA joined the Save Darfur Coalition in 2004, in order to bring the collective moral weight of many religious communities and millions of faithful U.S. citizens to bear on this situation. 

5.  One of the member communions of the NCC USA is the Armenian Orthodox Church.  For us, the Armenians are a living reminder of the tragedy of genocide.  It is in this shared pain that we join arms with our Jewish and other religious colleagues to stop yet another genocide, this one in Sudan. 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

"Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. I know I speak for everyone here Congressman Jim Clyburn, Congressman Donald Payne, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick, Congressman Michael Capuano, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, when I say that you are an inspiration to us on the trip that we just took to Darfur.

"I am pleased to join David Rubenstein of the Save Darfur Coalition and my friend for many years, Reverend Bob Edgar from the National Council of Churches, to give you a report on what we heard from our trip and to also hear from you.

"When we were in the Sudan we told everyone we met that in America there were people who were very concerned about the genocide in Darfur and that they were acting upon it.

"We told them at every stop that across America in the religious community and academic community, on college campuses, and even in high schools that Americans are taking up collections for Sudan.

"We need to work in a bipartisan way to move as quickly as possible to stop the violence in Darfur, to try and bring people to the table to negotiate, to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, and to honor what we as a nation vowed after Rwanda: that this should never happen again. But here it is again.

"Too many people have died. Conservatively, the figure is over a quarter of a million. I was told a figure yesterday that 20,000 people had been killed in the camps. So the camps are not a safe harbor as well. Its a violent atmosphere.

"Before we went to Sudan, we were briefed in Rome by the U.N. and NATO. NATO told us that the Janjaweed was a state sponsored violent organization and that they were an extension of the Sudanese military. And we were also briefed about the humanitarian assistance and how much more needed to be done.

"We all went to Darfur with a sense of deep concern and we all left with a sense of outrage and urgency. We unanimously support President Bush's suggestion to commit more international troops to Darfur, and bring hope and security to the region."

Contact NCC News: Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350, or Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252.

Above: CDC picture


 

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