National Council of Churches: We do too care about Sudan!
Two weeks ago, Christianity Today Weblog noted a UPI article by Uwe Siemon-Netto charging the National Council of Churches (NCC) of being "curiously mum about the most burning issue Christianity is facing in the entire world: the genocide perpetrated chiefly against Christians in southern Sudan." A National Council of Churches representative quickly called us up, upset that neither Siemon-Netto nor we had called for comment. (For those unfamiliar with how this works, the Christianity Today Weblog is a news summary and collection of links to recent news articles and commentaries; it therefore doesn't usually include original reporting, fact-checking, or other original interviews. It's a digest.) Anyway, in response to the UPI article and the response to it, the NCC has posted a statement on its Web site about Sudan. The short of it: "We care enormously about the suffering in Sudan and we are responding."

There are some vague references to the UPI story, including this comment from NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar: "Unlike the simplistic picture presented by some who manipulate religious animosity and add fuel to the flames consuming Sudan, [our] information reflects the complexities of Sudan." For example, the statement continues, "While it is generally acknowledged that the government of Sudan bears the greatest responsibility for human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict, not many people know that factionalism in the south has actually resulted in a greater number of deaths than clashes between government and rebel forces." As Weblog noted earlier, the NCC's "nonsimplistic" information has in the past also played down reports of religious persecution, saying that "civil war and racial hostility play a far larger role" than religious tensions. "What is reported as religious persecution is often understood locally as something quite different."

In fact, Edgar's recent statement does make mention of religious persecution, noting twice that, "Without peace, egregious violations of human rights, including religious persecution, are likely to continue in Sudan." It also notes that Church World Service has done a lot of relief work in the area (though it should be noted that Church World Service is far more autonomous than it once was).

But Siemon-Netto's point wasn't about relief work; it was about advocacy. He compared the NCC's silence on the Sudan genocide to the highly vocal stances it took for campaign finance reform and the Elián González controversy. Edgar's statement says that the NCC has "pressed for policies and actions that will promote peace," and has "expressed concern specifically over policies that we believe will exacerbate ethnic tensions in southern Sudan and place aid workers in jeopardy." (It doesn't say what policies.)

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Does the NCC disagree with George Bush's statement that "We're responsible to stand for human dignity and religious freedom wherever they are denied, from Cuba to China to southern Sudan"? Does it disagree with Al Sharpton's recent comment that "Slavery is wrong no matter who the slave master or the slave is. This is not about Muslims versus Christians. This is about right versus wrong"? Does it disagree with Franklin Graham that Sudan "has declared a jihad on its own people … It's wrong. It's wicked. And it's evil"? Does it disagree with Siemon-Netto's assertion that the fate of "those who burn to death, get raped, mutilated, tortured, enslaved and murdered in southern Sudan … is more important than campaign financing or, for that matter, the father of Elián González"? If not, why not take a stronger stand against religious persecution in the country?

More on Sudan:

Sanctuary no more
Not so long ago, churches were considered "sanctuaries." That is, they offered asylum for criminals. This was, of course, because churches were seen as holy, consecrated places, and arrests by civil authorities would defile them—not to mention remove the opportunity for the criminal to seek spiritual help. How times have changed. A man wanted for murder in Texas was arrested in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City church over the weekend. But the suspect, Francisco Dias Perez, probably wouldn't have received sanctuary in days of old either. According to television station KOCO, Perez was first apprehended for relieving himself near a car.

More on church-related crime:

  • Church attacker convicted | The man who robbed and beat a 73-year-old woman as she prayed in a Solana Beach church will spend the next two decades behind bars. (KGTV, San Diego)
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Other stories


  • Vietnam 'troublemakers' face prosecution | "Strong measures [are to be taken against] those profiting from the Protestant faith … to bend the truth and sabotage the revolution," says official with the ruling Communist Party's provincial committee. (BBC)
  • India, Pakistan in human rights battle | Faced with criticism on several counts of human rights violations from UN special reporters as well as nongovernmental organizations, their response has been to defend themselves by pointing fingers at each other rather than by making out a positive case for their own countries. (Asia Times)


Christians and Jews:

  • Alleged remarks concern parents | Students complained that a visiting pastor said Jews killed Jesus. (The Miami Herald)
  • It's comical: P.C. vs. 'B.C.' | There's nothing wrong with the modernization and diversification of a newspaper's comics section. But as is typically the case with the liberal media's narrow concept of "diversity," some kinds of differences don't count. Like spiritual diversity. (Michelle Malkin, New York Post)

Faith-based initiative:

  • Private sector funds faith-based programs | Sources of private funding—individuals, foundations and corporations—seem to be more receptive to faith-based programs since President Bush took office (The Washington Times)
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Church and state:

Religion and politics:

  • Critics blast GOP choice of Cleveland clergyman | A Cleveland minister who was fired in 1995 as a city police chaplain for making derogatory comments about Jews and Muslims is drawing fire again—this time because Republican congressional leaders have named him to an advisory panel on faith-based issues. (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
  • Interest groups' influence affected | Religious leaders who tend toward the liberal or moderate side have formed a new organization in the latest effort to counter the political clout of the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservatives. (Associated Press)
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Religion and censuses:

Faith healing:

Jane Fonda and Ted Turner:

Sex and dating:

  • Not until marriage | Teens are saying 'I do' to abstinence vows, but critics say the pledges don't prepare them for the realities of sexuality (Chicago Tribune)
  • Seek and ye shall find a wife on the Internet | Women are so reluctant to become vicars' wives that clergy are having to turn to dating agencies to find love. (The Daily Telegraph, London)
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  • Earlier: Christian dating agency goes online to find perfect partners | A new dating agency for Christians is asking members to quote their favorite biblical passages and describe their religious beliefs in order to ensure that they are matched with their perfect partner. (The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 18, 2001)

Related Elsewhere

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