Interfaith Group Backs Call to End Darfur Genocide

In light of the continuing necessity for international intervention in Darfur, Sudan, the United Religions Initiative Global Council have voted to endorse the Darfur Unity Statement, according to a URI press release.

The Darfur Unity Statement, which was drafted by the Save Darfur Coalition, seeks "a massive worldwide humanitarian response and call to end the violence and investigate crimes against humanity"

URI is joining that call by becoming the latest organisation to sign its name along with over 100 other faith-based and human rights groups.

Over two million refugees are in need of aid and death toll estimates in the region exceed 300,000.

In addition, the unity statement quotes U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who called the situation in Darfur the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world today."

In the statement, the council says that "never again" statements followed massacres in Rwanda eleven years ago.

"January’s report from the U.N. International Inquiry on Darfur made clear that the conflict in western Sudan would soon become the next ‘never again,’" according to the press release.

The U.N. International Inquiry Commission that is investigating the events in Darfur was "particularly alarmed that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacements have continued during the course of the Commission’s mandate."

Alarmed that that there was a lack of resolution to the crisis, a small group of interfaith activists informally convened as the URI Darfur Action Group in March.

"Even in this late day we are not powerless to act, to help a desperate people avoid further atrocities and the suffering of refugee life," said Stephen Fuqua, one of the group’s members.

The group’s activities were made known to URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs, who eventually supported having URI be added as a signatory to the Unity Statement.

The United Religions Initiative (URI) works to "end religiously motivated violence and build cultures of peace, justice and healing," the statement said. It is active in more than 50 countries.

A key reason leading to the support of the signature "was that the request came from our grassroots representatives and members who had been seriously considering this issue," said Gibbs in the statement.

In March the URI Darfur Action Group sent a letter to interfaith leaders throughout the United States requesting their support for a campaign to encourage the passage of the Darfur Accountability Act in the U.S. Senate.

The bill calls for measures aimed at ending the Darfur "genocide", a term the United States House of Representatives used on July 22, 2004 to describe the "atrocities" it said were occurring in Darfur, Sudan.

The bill also calls for restoring normalcy to life for hundreds of thousands of displaced Muslims, and for the criminal prosecution of those responsible for crimes against humanity.

The measure is currently being debated in the US Senate.

There has been international progress on the Darfur matter. Recent U.N. Security Council Resolutions have been passed to punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity and there has been a sanctioning of individuals and against the government of Sudan.

The Security Council has also approved a peacekeeping force for southern Sudan, whose future stability is intertwined with the Darfur conflict in the west.

The Darfur Accountability Act currently in the US Senate would provide additional aid in the region and would also work to secure additional African Union and UN peacekeeping troops specifically for Darfur.

Francis Helguero
Ecumenical Press