Special Report

Blaming Bush for Darfur

Jim Wallis's left evangelicals know who the bad guy is.

By 10.23.06

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The genocide of black African Muslims in Darfur is possibly the world's most bizarre genocide. It has no perpetrators, but somehow is abetted by George W. Bush.

At least that is what one would assume by reading the full-page advertisement in the October 16 Washington Post, which also ran in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. The ad was from Evangelicals for Darfur, a coalition of "conservatives and progressives" organized with help from religious left activist Jim Wallis of Sojourners.

It is the latest in a long line of advocacy appeals for Darfur that address President George W. Bush as if he were at best (!) Kofi Annan, and at worst, Sudanese Islamist dictator Omar el-Bashir, or perhaps even a janjaweed militia commander. The parties that should actually be addressed regarding the ongoing jihad in Western Sudan are Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (formerly the National Islamic Front) and its proxy militias. But they are strangely unmentioned in the ad.

Evangelicals for Darfur describe themselves as coming "from across the evangelical spectrum." As someone who has worked on Sudan advocacy since 1995, and knows that "yes, Virginia, there really was a genocide in Sudan prior to Darfur," I wonder why it took until now for many of these concerned voices suddenly to speak. The Islamist regime in Khartoum waged a genocidal war against the non-Muslim southern party of the country for two decades, killing 2 million. That was war was finally negotiated to an end with essential help by the Bush Administration.

A few of the signatories have been to southern Sudan or have been a part of the Washington-based Sudan Coalition founded by Nina Shea of Freedom House and myself. They should explain to the latecomers that President Bush has done more for persecuted people in Sudan than anyone before him.

Frankly, I wish our Sudan Coalition could have had the funds for full-page newspaper ads when the Nuba people were being ethnically cleansed with scorched-earth, aerial bombardment, and starvation. (The ad in the Washington Post and other major papers by itself cost over a half million dollars.) Or when Sudanese government-orchestrated famine threatened the lives of three million in Wau, Southern Sudan. Or when southern Sudanese women and children were being branded and sold into slavery. Or when 40,000+ mostly Dinka young boys fled from their villages and walked to Ethiopia and have lived as displaced persons in a harsh, impoverished refugee camp in Kenya since then. Or when some 2,000 of these "Lost Boys" arrived for resettlement in the United States and needed sponsorship and mentoring in order to not fall through the cracks here in America. You get the point.

But then I consider how much good hundreds of thousands of dollars could actually do for the people of Sudan. For instance, in the Nuba Mountains right now there are over two thousand Darfurian refugees who have nothing. The Nuba, both Christians and Muslims, are sharing what little they have with them, but food supplies are dwindling. The UN's World Food Program has been assured by Khartoum that "they will take care of things in the Nuba Mountains." Yes, well, we know what that means.

While some Darfurians have fled to Chad, and others further into southern Sudan, these refugees walked for almost a thousand miles to get to the Nuba Mountains. They fled from Darfur, where, as one young woman told an American who recently visited the area, she had watched as they killed her family, including her 80 year-old-grandfather, "slicing them up like meat."

These Darfurians know that over 400,000 of their countrymen and women described by the Washington Post ad in the passive "have been killed" were killed by somebody! They were killed by emissaries of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, who wants to rid Sudan of every black African Sudanese, whether Christian or Muslim. These Darfurians know that the 2.5 million "displaced" were forced from their homes and land by the same Arabist Islamist regime that displaced over 5 million in southern Sudan.

Unfortunately, the Evangelicals for Darfur seem only to want to lay the onus on George W. Bush. "Without you, Mr. President, Darfur doesn't have a prayer," its ad headline reads. "We beseech you to act on your faith and do the right thing by leading the world to stop the genocide affecting 'the least of these' in Darfur." This coalition of "conservatives and progressives" is headquartered with Jim Wallis's religious left group Sojourners.

Evangelicals for Darfur's website, which is part of Sojourners' website, includes some "resource" materials that actually get around to naming who is actually doing the killing in Darfur, i.e. the Sudanese government and the janjaweed militias. The Arabist component of Khartoum's agenda is briefly mentioned, but there is strangely not a word about the radical Islamism that guides the Sudanese regime and justifies its aggression.

Conveniently, persons who sign up with Evangelicals for Darfur are also promised regular updates from Jim Wallis' Sojourners, who can be counted upon to inform evangelicals about who the real menace is in the world today. And he lives in Washington, D.C., not Khartoum.

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About the Author

Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda's Children (Chosen Books, 2007).