It’s often hard to find signs of hope in Sudan’s Western Darfur province, which is considered one of the bleakest places on the planet. Civil war rages in what many call a campaign of genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians and displaced millions of others.
“What would you say to someone who is hesitant to invest in Sudan’s schools or health clinics given the likelihood that violence will return to Sudan?” My colleague was addressing Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan during a Lambeth roundtable on the church’s needs in his country.
As a German-trained medical doctor, Oliver Duku was director of health services for Southern Sudan until the government based in Khartoum forced him from his job. Duku turned to the Episcopal Church of Sudan for help. The church recognized his gifts for ordained ministry and sent him to Virginia Theological Seminary for formal training.
A Christian leader in the Horn of Africa has welcomed a Sudanese government pledge of $300 million in aid for Sudan’s Darfur region but said that it is insufficient and should not distract attention from the underlying causes of the conflict.
Not long ago donkey-drawn plows turned the soil over in fields of sorghum and peanuts near Bela village. But today the village is deserted. In 2003, Arab militias killed 37 people and drove the survivors away. Now there is only silence—the sound of genocide in slow motion. The grass and weeds growing up amidst skeletons of burned huts are proof that the world hasn’t cared enough to stop the violence and bring the people of Bela home.
Last November I traveled to a restful location outside of Kampala, Uganda, to spend three days with African Christian leaders who are trying to address the destructive conflicts in their countries. They represented a “United Nations” of Christian denominations and traditions—Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and Mennonite.
Christians from all traditions and from across the political spectrum have been pressing President Bush to try to get more United Nations peacekeeping troops on the ground in Darfur to stop the unrelenting violence there. The National Council of Churches endorsed the UN resolution in August that called for sending UN troops.
In Dinka Bor tradition, long ebony shafts serve as walking sticks for the elderly, as scepters for newly married women and as weapons for initiates into manhood. Wooden spears are vital to Dinka cattle herders moving through alien territory. Hardwood branches, carved by Christian evangelists into crosses, are still implements of worship.