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Sudan: Villain, or Victim of Religious Persecution ?

Executive order imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on Sudan. The White House took this step despite little or no evidence to support its allegations against Sudan, and ample evidence that such sanctions hurt American business and the indigenous poor.
The US action is a direct consequence, alleges The White House, of the Sudanese regime s sponsorship of international terrorism, its efforts to destabilize neighboring countries, and its abysmal human rights record, including the denial of religious freedom. As a result of these sanctions, Sudanese assets in the United States are now blocked. The sanctions also prohibit a wide range of financial transactions between the United States and Sudan.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is charged with sponsorship of international terrorism. What acts of terrorism? The White House does not say. Is Sudan training terrorists or is it merely guilty of having provided military training to persons who then happened to commit an act of terrorism? Reliable facts and statistics are hard to come by.

Sudan is charged with efforts to destabilize neighboring countries. But on November 10, 1996 The Washington Post revealed that the US government had provided $20 million to anti-Sudanese forces. And last January the Sudan government charged that it was being invaded on three fronts by troops from neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda. Antigovernment Sudanese rebels have long been operating from bases in these three states, and striking across the border. This time, however, the invaders were well-armed and backed by tanks and artillery.

Sudan is charged with having an abysmal human rights record, including the denial of religious freedom. Sudan, a mostly Muslim country, has a Christian of the Dinka tribe, George Kungor, as its Vice President. It collects the Islam mandated zakat, or wealth tax, from Muslims only, but uses the tax to serve all its needy people Muslim and Christian. And, we suspect, more churches are burned right here in the US than in Sudan.

South Sudan is, reports Eric Margolis in the January 27, 1997 issue of The Toronto Sun, inhabited by animist or Christian Nilotic tribesmen who still live in the Iron Age. The two disparate parts of Sudan have been in conflict for decades. In the 1960 s and 70 s, Israel and Ethiopia armed south Sudanese rebels in an effort to destabilize the government in Khartoum. Oxfam and other Christian missionary and humanitarian groups raised money and provided arms to the Sudanese rebels which they do to this day in an effort to prevent the spread of Islam.

However, the rebels in the mostly Christian south do not seem to discriminate between their perceived enemies Christian or Muslim. On August 27, 1996 Reuters reported, Three Australian Catholic nuns . . . , aged between 52 and 73, are being held with three other missionaries by the Sudan People s Liberation Army (SPLA) . . . accused by the rebels of spying and being agents of Islam because of a quotation from the Koran found by the rebels on a bookmark in a Bible belonging to the nuns. Apparently the situation there has improved. On April 21, 1997 the government concluded a Peace Agreement with the Christians of Southern Sudan.

The Egyptian s and British have been trying to control Sudan since the opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869. They suffered a humiliating defeat on January 26, 1885 when Sudanese forces led by the Islamic mystic Ahmad ibn Abd Allah, better known as the Mahdi, recaptured Khartoum from the British led Egyptian troops, and killed General Charles Gordon in that battle. It appears that some in England have neither forgiven nor forgotten.

The London based Sudan Foundation has been trying to engage Baroness Cox, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and a leading opponent of Sudan, in an open debate on allegations of slavery in Sudan. On considering often exactly the same evidence, the Sudan Foundation and Christian Solidarity International have reached exactly opposite conclusions. One must be mistaken, says Sean Gabb, Director, The Sudan Foundation.

This coming November 16, 1997 Christian Solidarity International, evangelical churches, and sympathetic Zionists, sensing an opportunity for their anti-Islam campaign, will give voice to the growing persecution of Christians. The goal of their 1997 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is to shatter the silence and end apathy in the church and in the world.

We welcome an end to apathy. Terrorism, according to Websters, is the act of terrorizing; use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, especially such use as a political weapon or policy. Lets us examine the facts, engage in debate, get our priorities right. Perhaps, then the Muslim victims of Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Philippines, and all victims of religious persecution anywhere may have hopes for peace. As Alfred McLung Lee and Elizabeth Bryant Lee said in The Fine Art of Propaganda: Science flourishes on criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it.

Is Sudan the villain or victim? Only a full and open debate will tell us the truth. Sanctions will hurt Sudan s poorest, and American business.

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