Friday, September 23, 2005

First Things October 2005: The Shame of Darfur

First Things October 2005: The Shame of Darfur:
The Shame of Darfur
Allen D. Hertzke

Copyright (c) 2005 First Things 156 (October 2005): 16-22.

"In April 2005, a striking celebration occurred in Washington to mark the signing of a peace accord between rebel groups of southern Sudan and the Islamist regime in Khartoum, ending Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil war. In a packed room in the Longworth House Office Building, Sudanese exiles mingled with the American officials and religious leaders whose efforts helped halt Sudan’s two-decade genocidal war against its non-Muslim population.

The event marked a triumph for both the Bush administration and the faith-based human-rights movement that has burst on the American foreign-policy scene in recent years. But the triumph was muted, for the Sudanese government in Khartoum has now turned its attention from the southern part of the country to the western, undertaking massive ethnic cleansing in the region known as Darfur. And so far, neither America’s religious community nor its government has acted with the same vigor in addressing the crisis.

Indeed, the administration’s mixed signals, alternately condemning and lauding the regime, have done little to rein in the Janjaweed marauders who keep the Darfur people from leaving fetid camps to plant crops and rebuild their shattered villages. And one reason the administration has not acted more forcefully is that the potent Christian groups involved in foreign affairs—those who anchored the religious coalition that compelled results in southern Sudan with unity and toughness—have been fragmented in their response to Darfur. This fact tarnishes the achievement in the south, and the stain will fall most heavily on the evangelical world. Born-again Christians in America, it will be said, care more about the deaths of their fellow believers in the south than about the deaths of Muslims in the west...."

-- Posted by permission
Have we Christians been so concerned about the persecuted Church in the world that we fail to see persecution of other faiths? Allen Hertzke makes a compelling case that this is indeed so, and I must agree.

We cannot afford to hide behind the attitude that "this is not my battle to fight." We may not be able to individually respond to all cases of persecution around the world, but where we are made aware of such persecution we need to react collectively in some fashion and our combined voices may be the best way to respond.

The same framework that allows evangelicals to speak so forcefully on behalf of persecuted Christians can be brought to bear on any persecution. Hertzke notes that evangelicals enjoy significant access to the current administration, and it has been efectively used to help bring about positive change in some areas.

A "tectonic shift" in the population patterns of Christians has resulted in ever increasing numbers of Christians in the Third World. The areas in which the church is growing the fastest are also areas of warfare, violence, poverty, and persecution -- something that many Christians in developed nations have difficulty relating to.

The effectiveness of the Church's witness in the world can be greatly enhanced when the ministry of compassion reaches all those who are persecuted, not just Christians.


Rodger Sellers said...

Man, Dennis: Couldn't have said it better! Think it's probably not a bad "litmus test" to think about how we're willing to "be the church" to those of other faiths as well as to our own. Otherwise, aren't we just taking "N.I.M.B.Y." into the religious sphere? Thanks for the thought.

Denis Hancock said...

I appreciate your comments.

How can we carry out the great Commission if we are not able or willing to "be the church" to other faiths?

Apathy or ignorance can be overcome, but "crossing to the other side" is much more difficult to deal with.