Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brethren staff express concern about Darfur, southern Sudan.

Following the issue of an international arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Church of the Brethren staff related to mission and disaster relief have expressed concern for the situation in Darfur and in southern Sudan. The International Criminal Court announced the warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president on March 4 on war crime charges over the conflict in the Darfur region.

Some aid agencies have been expelled from Sudan or have had their licenses revoked, reported Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. "There is much concern about an expanded humanitarian crisis" in Darfur, he said. However, he added that the work the Church of the Brethren is supporting in Darfur through ACT International is continuing at the moment.

Upon the announcement of the warrant, Sudan revoked the licenses of 10 of the largest aid agencies providing humanitarian services in Sudan, "thereby putting at extreme risk millions of refugees and internally displaced Darfurians," according to information from the Sudan Advocacy Action Coalition, provided by Brad Bohrer, director of the Church of the Brethren mission in Sudan. The coalition said that according to the United Nations, the affected groups include Action Contre la Faim (a famine relief group), Care International, CHF International, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, both the French and Dutch branches of Medecins sans Frontieres (or Doctors Without Borders), Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam Great Britain, Solidarite, PATCO, and Save the Children Fund of both the United Kingdom and the US.

"Larger aid organizations have to register with the Khartoum government to function in Sudan, but the Church of the Brethren does not since we are partnering with a Sudanese organization, so we are not affected directly at this time," Bohrer said. The Brethren mission has begun a partnership with Reconcile International in southern Sudan, where a first short-term Brethren mission worker--computer consultant Bibek Sahu--has been working.

Bohrer relayed a number of prayer requests from Reconcile, including request for prayer that the reaction across Sudan to the arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir would be peaceful. "Please keep the people in Darfur in your prayers," said a communication from Reconcile staff. "They are going through tremendous suffering now that the government withdrew most of the international aid agencies from the area in response to the arrest warrant."

Reconcile has successfully opened its Reconcile Peace Institute (RPI) with 30 students coming from areas of high inter-ethnic conflict, many having been traumatized themselves. Additional prayer requests from the organization have to do with RPI students and their personal situations. "Pray for us as we help them to experience the healing needed so they can serve as agents of peace as they return to their communities," said the Reconcile staff letter.

"While the Darfur situation is not directly affecting the program of Reconcile, violence from the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group continues to affect the people in and around Yei," Bohrer said. "Recent attacks by this group have forced many people out of the villages around Yei and to seek shelter in the city. Some participants in the Reconcile program have lost family members to this violence and to the kidnappings."

Reconcile staff reported that students in the RPI program have been affected by the recent violence, one having had a brother killed on Jan. 1 by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and another having lost his father, who was killed, and his mother, who was abducted, in an LRA attack last week. This past weekend the LRA attacked the village of Luthaya, at the outskirts of Yei, killing five people and abducting two. "Hundreds of people...were sleeping in the town square," reported Reconcile staff. "Pray that the reign of terror being carried out by the LRA may cease."

Bohrer also announced the creation of a new Reconcile website through the work of Brethren mission worker Bibek Sahu. "Part of our work with Reconcile was to create a new website for them. The old one had become unworkable. I'm excited to announce that the site is up and working," Bohrer said. Go to to view the new website.

Source: 3/12/2009 Newsline Special

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