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November 10, 2001
Column #1054


     WASHINGTON The tall Sudanese Anglican Bishop Bullen Dolli stood to receive a "Religious Liberty Award" from the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) at its 20th anniversary meeting. Kent Hill, a previous IRD President, now an Assistant Administrator of USAID, said, the award "goes to someone who has suffered, an exceptional individual whose courage and strength are a testament to all of us who work against violence and for peace."

     However, before Bishop Dolli accepted the award, he asked all in attendance to stand in a moment of prayer "remembering those killed in cold blood in your country, in memory of the events of September 11."

     He expressed "condolences from the Sudan to you people. Your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering. We prayed for you people. We have worn your shoes. This event has touched us. Do not think you are alone. We are with you," he said solemnly.

     It was more than a gracious gesture. Here is a man who suffers with Americans over their loss of 5,000 people, when the Sudan has lost TWO MILLION lives, and seen four million driven from their homes in a nation with only 30 million people, the worst civil war in the past century.

     Have we Americans said to the Sudenese, "Your suffering is our suffering." 

     Not at all. We are too self absorbed. 

     Yet the terror faced by Christians in southern Sudan at the hands of a militant Muslim government, is the same terror which struck the World Trade Center. But Sudan's genocide is massively worse than U.S. deaths.

     The civil war has raged for 18 years but has grown worse as oil was discovered under lands in the South where Christians and animists live. Since the Government of Sudan contracted with foreign companies to build a new pipeline two years ago, its military budget doubled to buy arms to kill or drive Christians from their ancestral lands.

     The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has labeled the Sudan Government "the world's most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief." It found that "religion was a major factor in the ongoing civil war." The regime committed "genocidal atrocities against civilian populations" and kept starving Christians from getting food aid.

     Bishop Dolli gave details of "genocide, slavery, and horrendous religious persecution or oppression and violation of human rights by the radical Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum, such as "indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, killing innocent children and women," resulting in "the estimated loss of about two million people. Four million have been displaced within Sudan, many in concentration camps in the desert, and thousands as refugees in neighboring countries. Progovernment militiamen have consistently been raiding...taking children into slavery, Islamise them, erase their cultural identity and furthermore, use them as cheap labor."

     As this column pointed out last July, there is something concrete that the United States could do that would dry up oil revenues now financing this war. An amendment to the Sudan Peace Act in the House passed by a stunning 402-2 vote, proposed by Rep. Spencer Bachus, that would prohibit any company in developing oil in Sudan from being able to raise money in the United States or listing securities in American financial markets.

     U.S. law already prohibits American firms from drilling in Sudan. But foreign companies, who are now pumping 200,000 barrels of Sudanese oil a day raise money for their ventures in New York and are listed on stock exchanges.

     As Bachus told me, "Think of the absurdity of it. We prohibit our companies from drilling for oil to prevent them from participating in genocide. Yet we allow six companies who go there to raise capital in our markets. 

     "This issue is very basic: dollars or lives? I am personally committed to ending the slaughter in Sudan. The U.S. must send a message: step the killing, stop the murder and torture, end the terror, or we end the investments."

     Canada's Talisman Energy Inc., would sell its share in a Sudanese oil project, to keep its New York Stock Exchange listing. Its CEO, Jim Buckee, says, "I don't think anybody could afford not to have access to U.S. capital markets."

     The Senate passed a version of the bill without the Bachus Amendment. And when a conference committee proposal came up on the House floor, the White House pressured the leadership to pull it back. Why?

     Has not Islamic terrorism killed 400,000 times more people in Sudan than in New York? Why is there a double standard in seeking justice?

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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