The Heartbreaking Story of Darfur

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By Andrew Matjila Easter marks the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. To us Christians, this is the day on which the Lord Jesus broke the seal on the fulfilment of the great prophecies that had withstood the ages – that Jesus Christ would come to die for humanity, in order to open the Gates of Heaven for us. And so the Christian world has entered Holy Week with Palm Sunday, which culminates with the Crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. For over two thousand years, from the time the world had leaders who became inspired by the power of God to lead his people, messengers entered the scene, foretelling the coming of a great man, God’s own Son, who would come to liberate humanity from the power of darkness. We believe. Holy Week in 2006 therefore, marks another milestone in the development of the Christian faith, and assures the Almighty God that His people on earth have not turned their backs on His Son Jesus Christ. On the contrary, the Church of Christ is growing steadily but surely, and will eventually embrace all of God’s children on earth. But there is the terrible scourge of man’s/woman’s inhumanity to man/woman that is dominating the world. The weak, the poor, the sick, the disabled, women, children, black people, the lowly, the meek, are heavily exploited by the powerful, the dictators, the satanic, the haters, the warriors, the well armed, for their own gain. It is the duty of the Christian world, therefore, to remember the suffering humanity of the Creator. Of particular importance during Easter, we pray for the people of Darfur. Darfur, O Darfur! Why are the leaders of our Churches so silent on this matter? Can they really eat and sleep peacefully while people of this continent are being wiped off the map? I don’t think so There is a tendency among some church leaders to address issues affecting humanity on a selective basis. This is frightening. Jesus Christ was outspoken on every matter concerning the world he lived in, including the world of the future. Everyone who speaks in His name must do the same. A very tragic situation has been developing over a long period of time in Sudan, but we hardly hear men and women of the cloth pronouncing themselves on the issue. Perhaps we have missed some of their statements on the Darfur and Rwandan tragedies. We apologize for the mistake. The tragic story of Darfur in Sudan has become an enigma. In the October 1997 issue, the Reader’s Digest magazine published a well-researched article titled “The Global War on Christians”. In that most revealing and informative article, the names of countries where Christian persecution is the most severe were published: Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cuba. Hair-raising stories of Christians (from ordinary lay people to priests, bishops and nuns) being tortured, imprisoned and killed, were laid bare in that article of nine years ago. At that time, four Catholic Chinese bishops were being held at a communist reform-through-labour camp. They were convicted of illegal evangelical work, or organizing “underground” evangelical church centres. China’s 40 million Christians survived Mao Zedong’s 27 years of fierce repression. Christianity has been rooted in China since the seventh century AD. According to the Reader’s Digest, two very important new books are forcing this issue to the fore: In the Lion’s Den by Nina Shea and Their Blood Cries Out by Paul MarshalI, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Christian Studies in Canada. According to Marshall, thousands have been sentenced to “re-education” camps in China for attending prayer meetings or Bible lessons. Back in 1997, the Catholic Bishop Su Zhimin, 64, who had already spent 15 years in prison for his priestly activities, was re-arrested, apparently for organizing a pilgrimage. He has since been missing. But that is far away from the African continent. What we find most worrisome and frightening is the carrying out of atrocities against Christians right here in Africa, in our midst, with our leaders of the Africa Union looking on helplessly. In Nigeria, hardly a month passes by without a story of all-out war between Christians and Muslims. The country is divided according to north and south, on religious beliefs, and citizens kill each other to “protect” their religion. But Sudan should worry African leaders more than anything on the continent. Marshall says no nation illustrates brutality to Christians (in this case Africans) more than Sudan does. Since 1989, the Government of Sudan has been engaged in a wholesale war against Christians, who constitute roughly one fifth of the population, according to Marshall. Marshall reported at that time that the goal of the ruling National Islamic Front led by Hassan AI-Turabi was to “eradicate non-Islamic religions”. “Non Muslims arc given the choice of converting to Islam or being denied food, clothing and shelter,” Marshal says. Thousands of women and children have been sold into slavery to Muslim masters who force them to convert to Islam. According to Marshall, Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, where Christians have lived since the sixth century AD, are now a wasteland of mass graves, destroyed villages and camps filled with starving women and children. Half a million Nuba Christians were killed during the eighties and nineties. “The word ‘genocide’ is thrown around too frequently,” says Marshall. “In the case of Sudan, however, it is a factual description.” According to reliable sources, Christian men and guerrilla fighters of Southern Sudan are the prime targets of the Janjaweed. Moving swiftly on camelback, they strike at remote villages in the desert, where they appear from nowhere, taking people by surprise. No one can escape the scythe that surrounds the village, and all men are sought out and shot without mercy. Women are raped and taken into slavery. The process of ethnic cleansing in Sudan is growing by leaps and bounds. Somebody stop this carnage. Or are we Africans destined to be perpetual refugees even on our continent? Several bishops of the church have been killed over the years in Sudan. Against the background of the chilling words by Marshall, one wonders what Africa’s rulers have to say about this crucial matter. While the Janjaweed are out there in force annihilating Africans in Darfur, there seems to be no country in Africa with soldiers bold enough to get on camelback and face them. It could be that others are afraid of rocking the “oil boat”, and that is understandable. Africa’s armies seem to be ready and good enough to do the bidding of the Charles Taylors, the Mobutus, the Amins, and kill their own people as in DRC, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Somalia and elsewhere. We watched mesmerized when a million people were massacred in Rwanda. We are watching mesmerized now as the same tragedy unfolds in Darfur. Quite recently, a meeting of the Arab League and African Union leaders fizzled into an agreement that it was not necessary to bring in UN peacekeepers into Darfur. Meanwhile, the show must go on. The Janjaweed gangs of “gladiators” wreak havoc among the unprotected, unarmed and scared black refugees who have no chance in the world to withstand wave upon wave of their mounted and well-trained attackers. It is really up to Kofi Annan and the UN to grasp the nettle and decide which to tackle first in their long list of priorities. We see Darfur as the most burning issue that cannot be left in the hands of our African Union, which is stil1 in its infancy anyway. The Hutu gladiators of Rwanda and their dastardly deeds a few years ago are stil1fresh in our minds. We dare not procrastinate and hope for some miracle to happen. There are countries in the world that have the where-withal to deal with the Darfur situation tomorrow. And the UN is the only body in the world that can act without fear or fervour. We appeal to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take the initiative and assign a peacekeeping force to the region. Some African tribes stand the risk of becoming extinct because the world community looks the other way. The Darfur disaster is a clear reminder that Africa is stil1 far from being ready to deal with issues of security without assistance from former colonial masters. Britain, france, Germany and the USA must be involved as former colonizers to help stabilize deadly situations on our continent. Countries from which they withdrew hastily before the people were 100 percent capable of running their own affairs.