A Time for Peace

We don't always get to see the results of our work in this life. That's especially true for those who work for human rights around the world. There are so many people living in slavery or facing persecution, that at times the scope of what we're trying to do is simply beyond our imagination. It seems like an impossible task. Yet every now and then, God gives us the gift of seeing the fruit of our efforts. One of those occasions took place just a week ago on Capitol Hill. As you know, we in the Wilberforce Forum are part of an interfaith coalition fighting for the freedom of the southern Sudanese people. So we had the privilege of attending "a celebration for the people of central and Southern Sudan upon the recognition of their right to religious freedom under the North/South peace accord." The celebration was sponsored by the Center for Religious Freedom, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom, and the Wilberforce Forum. The room in the Longworth House Office Building was jammed full that night. There were congressmen, clergy, lobbyists, and others from a wide variety of backgrounds who have fought for the Sudanese. But even more important, a number of Sudanese were also there. Among them were some of the famous "Lost Boys of Sudan," orphans whose families had been slaughtered by the Sudanese government, and who had spent ten years on their own before finally reaching a refugee camp. Their mood could only be described as jubilant. As speaker Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group noted, everyone from Ken Starr to the late Johnnie Cochran has been involved in this effort. As speaker after speaker testified, the day when the freedom of the southern Sudanese was finally recognized was a day that many have waited and prayed for, for years. Indeed, as Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) reminded everyone in his speech, it was "the prayers of faithful people" that assured this victory. Yet as Faith McDonnell of the Institute for Religion and Democracy acknowledged, it was "a victory tinged with sadness." At least two million southern Sudanese were lost in the government's bloody war on its own people -- most of them Christians, some animists. And though the people of the south are finally living in peace, the people of western Sudan are not so fortunate. As our own government recently declared, what the government of Sudan is doing to Muslims in the western part of the country is nothing less than genocide. So the fight for the Sudanese people is far from over. As Allen Hertzke writes in his excellent book Freeing God's Children, "The faith-based movement has bent the arc of Sudanese history, though it is too early to say how much . . . But if the ravaged people of Sudan do gain a modicum of peace and stability, historians will point to an unlikely alliance that moved the American government to intervene in a conflict that many foreign-policy elites viewed as unimportant to the national interest." While it's a good idea to take some time out to celebrate, the need is still huge, and we need to continue the hard work and prayers to make the dream of freedom in Sudan and elsewhere a reality, and to defend human rights around the globe. It's a Christian duty, and as Hertzke notes in his excellent book, a powerful witness when we do it.


Chuck Colson


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