A Compassionate Law

    On Monday an event of enormous importance, certainly symbolically, occurred at the White House. The president, I am thrilled to report, signed the Sudan Peace Act into law. The radical Islamic government in Sudan has bombed, raped, murdered, and enslaved hundreds of thousands of Christians and animists of southern Sudan for nearly two decades. This bill is long overdue. In the room for the signing were Mariam Bell, our Wilberforce Forum's director of public policy, and Jim Tonkowich, managing editor of BreakPoint, along with groups of people we've worked with for years to pass the legislation: representatives of evangelical groups, conservative Roman Catholics, the great fighter for human rights Michael Horowitz from Hudson Institute, and some liberal groups, like the Congressional Black Caucus, and a number of Jewish groups as well. This bill -- now a new law -- is of huge symbolic significance for two reasons. First, in it the United States has, for the first time, taken a tough stand in defense of the persecuted Christians in Sudan. Every six months, our government will decide whether the Khartoum government is negotiating in good faith with the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement in the south, or if not, the United States will seek an embargo against Khartoum. There is also $100 million in humanitarian aid and the stipulation that the Secretary of State collect information about all war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity -- like slavery -- committed by either side in the conflict. This law creates good reasons for both sides to quit the violent civil war and seek peace. But second, the Sudan Peace act is momentous because of the coalition that has come together to fight for the sanctity of life in Sudan. The persecuted Sudanese are largely Christians, and yet the coalition that pushed for the law was by no means all Christians. Passing the Sudan Peace Act is a grand example of how we are to bring Christian truth into the marketplace in this secular age. You see, Christians got involved in this issue because of the very core belief of our worldview that life -- all life -- is sacred. Other groups that favor abortion obviously don't agree with us. Yet in this case, we appeal to common standards of justice. Slavery, all sides believe, is wrong -- so is the persecution of Blacks, which most of the Sudanese are. So we made a good case for legislative action, and it produced a victory for what is a central truth of our faith. And this is a great illustration of how Christians can make an appealing case in the public square and can advance Christian beliefs when we do it. William Wilberforce did precisely the same thing in his struggle against slavery. He was motivated by his biblical worldview, but he brought others along with him who saw the injustice of slavery. He not only got legislation passed, but made a tremendous witness for Christian views about human dignity. I don't think that it is a coincidence that Wilberforce's work against slavery coincided with the Wesleyan revivals in England. The signing of the Sudan Peace Act into law is a moment of triumph to be savored. It's also an example of how to present and persuade others of a Christian point of view in the public square -- an example we would do well to emulate. For further information: Read President George W. Bush's statement at the signing of the Sudan Peace Act. Learn more about the Sudan Peace Act on BreakPoint's Sudan links and action page. BreakPoint Commentary no. 020918, "Standing Firm: Fighting Unspeakable Evil." BreakPoint Commentary no. 020605, "An Envoy Reports and a Letter Is Sent: Signs of Hope for Sudan." Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert, Their Blood Cries Out (Word Books, 1997).


Chuck Colson


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