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United Methodists sign letter to president on Darfur

 


 

 

May 25, 2005

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - United Methodists are among the signers of an open letter to President Bush on Darfur, asking for specific steps to stop genocide in the Sudan.

The letter, signed by representatives of 80 national organizations, was released during a May 24 press briefing by Africa Action. Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, noted that President Bush has recognized the issue of genocide but that the need for immediate action remains.

Urgent international intervention to support the African Union's mission in Darfur is required to stop the killing and provide security for millions of internally displaced people; facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance; enforce the cease-fire in place between government forces and rebel groups; and provide for the voluntary return of displaced persons, the letter states.

The letter calls on the Bush administration to work through the United Nations to achieve a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union mission and to assemble a broader international force.

"Up to 400,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur since the government-sponsored genocide began in 2003," the letter states. "More than 2.5 million people have been displaced, their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their proxy militias, and many thousands of women and girls have been raped by these forces.

"Recent reports confirm that the government-sponsored violence continues in Darfur, and that the security situation is deteriorating. The humanitarian crisis that forms part of the genocide is escalating, as the government of Sudan continues to obstruct humanitarian operations, creating famine conditions for millions of vulnerable people."

United Methodists and Methodists who have signed the letter include James Winkler and Bishop Beverly Shamana, United Methodist Board of Church and Society; Susie Johnson, Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries; the Rev. Robert Edgar, National Council of Churches; Dorothy Height, National Council of Negro Women; and the Rev. Mvume Dandala, All Africa Conference of Churches.

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Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
In a separate statement, United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of Mississippi also called on the U.S. government to take a stronger stand against genocide in Darfur. "By contacting the president, the United Nations ambassador and members of Congress, we can make an impact on the tragic situation," Ward said. "This is an opportunity for the U.S. to use its power for good for vulnerable people."

The original signatories of the open letter to the president on Darfur are Africa Action, American Jewish World Service, Coalition for International Justice, Darfur Rehabilitation Project, Foreign Policy in Focus, Genocide Intervention Fund, Physicians for Human Rights, Save Darfur Coalition, TransAfrica Forum and Professor Eric Reeves.

The full text of the letter follows:

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT ON THE GENOCIDE IN DARFUR

Released May 24, 2005

Dear President Bush,

In September 2004, your Administration rightfully recognized that the crisis in Darfur constitutes genocide. Yet the U.S. has failed to respond to this genocide with the urgency that is required. As the death toll in Darfur continues to mount, it is clear that nothing short of international intervention can protect the people of Darfur. We call on you to assert U.S. leadership to ensure such an international intervention takes place as a matter of the greatest urgency.

Up to 400,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur since the government-sponsored genocide began in 2003. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced, their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their proxy militias, and many thousands of women and girls have been raped by these forces. Recent reports confirm that the government-sponsored violence continues in Darfur, and that the security situation is deteriorating. The humanitarian crisis that forms part of the genocide is escalating, as the government of Sudan continues to obstruct humanitarian operations, creating famine conditions for millions of vulnerable people.

Mr. President, our most important priority must be providing protection to the people of Darfur. The African Union (AU) has shown important leadership, and its mission in Darfur is doing what it can on the ground in the face of growing insecurity. But the AU cannot address this crisis alone, and nor should it have to. Genocide is an international crime, a crime against humanity, and it requires an international response.

Unless there is an urgent international intervention in Darfur, up to a million people may be dead by the end of this year. An international intervention is essential to support the AU's efforts, and can achieve four critical purposes: (1) stop the killing and provide security for millions of internally displaced people (IDPs); (2) facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance; (3) enforce the cease fire and provide a stable environment for meaningful peace talks to proceed; and (4) facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs to their land and the reconstruction of their homes by providing a secure environment.

The U.S. is to date the only government that has rightfully recognized that genocide is taking place in Darfur. We urge you to immediately take the following steps to support an urgent international intervention to stop genocide in Darfur:

First, the U.S. must assert leadership at the United Nations (UN) by circulating a resolution calling for a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union mission and for a broader international force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

Second, the U.S. must encourage the UN to quickly approve and assemble a robust international force, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to integrate or co-deploy with the African Union and reinforce its efforts. Such a force can be assembled with troop contributions and financial & logistical support from additional countries within and outside the African continent.

Mr. President, genocide is a unique crime and it requires a unique and urgent response. We can still save thousands of lives in Darfur if we act now. We look to you to provide strong leadership to stop the genocide in Darfur by supporting an international intervention force to protect the people of Darfur as a critical first step to bringing peace and stability to this troubled region.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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