United Methodists remember victims in Sudan, advocate aid

The United Methodist Church’s legislative assembly paused in the course of a busy session to pray and pass a resolution expressing concern for 5 million displaced people in Sudan.

The denomination’s General Conference pledged support for refugees who have fled the east African country. The action came May 7, on the last day of the quadrennial assembly.

The 10-million-member denomination has no congregations in Sudan; however, it participates in an interchurch effort to care for Sudanese refugees entering the nation of Chad.

“We abhor the use of violence of any kind,” delegates said in the resolution.

“As Christians, we must come to the defense of all victims of what is beginning to look like genocide in the southern part of Sudan,” said the Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. “We cannot be concerned just for our own.”

The United Nations reports that some 75,000 people have been displaced in the last three weeks. There are 110,000 Sudanese refugees in the neighboring nation of Chad. Estimates place the number of people killed by violence and starvation at 2 million.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has set up an emergency fund for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The resolution singled out Day for challenging “the church and the world” to respond to the clash, which is primarily between militant Islamic militia backed by the government and animist, Christian and more moderate Muslim groups in the Darfur region. The conflict is not inter-religious; it results from a campaign to impose a militant Islamic political outlook.

The resolution was brought before the body by Jay Williams of the Western New

York Annual (regional) Conference and Brent Salsgiver of the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

The assembly directed the Board of Global Ministries to monitor developments in Sudan and report back to the 2008 session.

Earlier in the 10-day session, Day and Bishop Joseph Humper of Sierra Leone issued separate calls for an international peacekeeping effort in Sudan, which has undergone periodic outbreaks of violence in the last 20 years. Humper is chairperson of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is leading that nation to stability following a civil war.

Not one of the nearly 1,000 United Methodist delegates opposed the Sudan resolution. Upon passage, Bishop Joseph Sprague of Chicago, who was in the chair, led the conference is silent remembrance of the Sudanese victims and in prayer for the end of the violence.

*Wright is the information officer for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.  After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

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