(JTA) – Jewish groups praised President Obama for focusing international attention on preventing renewed civil war in Sudan.
Obama appeared late last month at a United Nations conference on the situation in Sudan, putting the U.S. government’s weight behind efforts to ensure that independence referendums take place in the sub-Saharan African country as scheduled in January.
"The stakes are enormous," Obama said. "We all know the terrible price paid by the Sudanese people the last time north and south were engulfed in war — some 2 million people killed."
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, commended Obama on his leadership at the U.N. High Level Meeting on Sudan.
"Your leadership is indispensable if we are to make real progress on safety and security for the long-suffering people of Sudan," Saperstein said in an Oct. 1 letter.
"As people intimately acquainted with the horrors of ethnic cleansing and genocide, we know the dangers of international silence in the face of ethnic violence," the letter added.
"It is clear that President Obama shares our belief that if government of Sudan wants a path towards normalized relations with the nations of the world, it must allow for a peaceful referendum on possible secession for southern Sudan; it must honor the outcome of this referendum; it must allow for and help advance humanitarian work and peacekeeping efforts in Darfur; and it must hold the perpetrators of mass violence accountable in order to bring a sustainable peace to the region,” American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger said in a Sept. 29 statement.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish policy groups, praised Obama for "taking a lead role in what is truly a matter of life or death."
In a statement issued last week, the group said Obama’s "promise to help the Sudanese people quickly and efficiently carry out the results, whatever they are, improves the likelihood that Sudan will strengthen its diplomatic relations and that those who have committed atrocities will be brought to justice."