|Senator gives little hope to interfaith coalition on Darfur
Dec. 14, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler
Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) listens to discussions about the Darfur conflict
during a gathering of Hoosier religious and community leaders.
By Daniel R. Gangler*
INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) --
U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar gave little hope to an interfaith coalition of
Hoosier religious and community leaders including native Darfurians who
asked him to step up his efforts to end ongoing conflict in the Darfur
region of Sudan.
Lugar, an Indiana Republican and active United Methodist, heads the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the past three years, he has
been actively involved with legislation granting humanitarian aid to
Darfur while putting pressure on Sudan in the form of the Darfur Peace
and Accountability Act to permit United Nations peacekeeping troops into
Lugar called a Dec. 9 dialogue at the University of Indianapolis
timely, because Andrew Natsios, special U.S. envoy to Sudan, is in that
country with a dozen U.S. dignitaries. Lugar said Natsios told him "the
Arab ruling group in the capital feels that they have an existential
problem related to their longevity."
"There is no basis for optimism for the moment, but our special envoy is
traveling in the area," Lugar said, referring to Natsios. "He's very
serious in his intent and bears the weight of the United States. We have
to wait for his report. It's about the only thing the world community
has going for us right now."
Natsios carries with him a recent, unanimously passed Senate resolution
warning Sudan that coercive actions will be taken by the United States
and perhaps the rest of the world that aligns with us.
Concerning possible sanctions being considered by Indiana and other
states against companies doing business with Sudan, Lugar said the
sanctions have to be very comprehensive and substantial to be effective.
Regimes often don't care how sanctions affect their own people, he said.
He added sanctions worked in South Africa 20 years ago because Nelson
Mandela was imprisoned due to his fight to overthrow apartheid rule.
There is no such person in Sudan.
|A UMNS file photo by John Robinson, Mennonite Central Committee
Internally displaced people live in makeshift domes of sticks, straw and tarps at the Otash camp in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The coalition asked Lugar to do two things in regards to Darfur. First,
to push the Bush administration to take actions already approved by
Congress. And second, to share correspondence with him to the rest of
Lugar spoke to the ad-hoc coalition in a private meeting at the United
Methodist-related University of Indianapolis following his 30th annual
day-long symposium for more than 500 high school students and their
parents from across the state.
The Darfur coalition comprises Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and
is coordinated by Beth Reilly, a member of Aldersgate United Methodist
Church in Fort Wayne where more than 200 Darfurian immigrants live.
Lugar also introduced Michael Phalan, a specialist on the issue of
Darfur and staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who
works with senators and the House of Representatives on diplomatic
issues. Phalan has traveled extensively in Africa and has been to Sudan
on behalf of the senator and has discussed the situation in Darfur with
leaders of the coalition including representatives of the Fort Wayne
Darfurian community for more than a year.
The hour-long dialogue with Lugar began with three presentations. The
Rev. Joe Johns, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Church in Fort Wayne,
offered a first-hand account of the situation in Darfur as one who does
relief work in the refugee camps.
Johns expressed the coalition's gratitude for the work Lugar has done on
the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act and asked him to be a champion
of the Darfurian people.
He was followed by David Warshauer, president of the Indianapolis Jewish
Community Relations Council, who encouraged Lugar to push for full
implementation of the peace and accountability act and more specifically
to freeze the assets of individuals in the Sudanese Government who are
responsible for the genocide and to deny entry at U.S. ports to oil
tankers doing business with Sudan.
Warshauer closed by saying, "The words that came out of the Holocaust
were 'never again,' and that doesn't just apply to Jews, but to wherever
people are subject to genocide."
The Rev. Chad Abbot, pastor of Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church
in Indianapolis and coordinator of the South Indiana United Methodist
Conference Peace with Justice program, summarized Hoosier activities
during the past two years and United Methodist support for funding,
legislation, peacekeeping operations and divestment.
State Sen. John Broden (D-Dist. 10) of South Bend, a Roman Catholic,
plans to introduce Sudan divestment legislation in the Indiana State
Senate next month.
Following presentations, Mastora Bakhie, a Darfurian immigrant who
escaped the violence and moved to Fort Wayne, said, "Every day, we lose
our relatives, homes, dignity and we don't know when we will find a real
*Gangler serves as director of communication for the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church and a member of the coalition.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lugar further warned the 40 members of the coalition present that
Natsios is going to issue problems to the current leaders of Sudan of
what will happen if they don't stop their current repressive actions.
One of their (Sudan leaders') reactions might be for Sudan to deny
access to persons wanting to give humanitarian aid. Aid workers also
might be hunted down and shot like the people in the camps.
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United Methodists in Indiana focus on Sudan
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