Faith leaders urge White House to work toward peace in Sudan.


American Jewish World Service president Ruth Messinger was among 14 faith community leaders who met with White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships director Joshua DuBois on Friday to urge the Obama administration to continue to work hard for peace in Sudan. They presented a letter, which can be read here, which asks the White House to ask the administration to work with multilateral coalitions "to help bring a sustainable peace agreement that will restore security and allow the Darfuri people to freely return to their homes and rebuild their lives" and urges the White House to ensure that "all aspects" of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement "are fully implemented to help achieve a just and lasting peace." It also urges the administration to play a role in making sure that the 2006 agreement in Eastern Sudan is upheld.

There has been some controversy over the administration’s Sudan policy — envoy J. Scott Gration had indicated he would support a policy of engagement and possibly even normalized relations with the Sudanese government, while Darfur advocates have called him naive and the White House has said Gration’s remarks are being misinterpreted  — but on a conference call, Messinger said the meeting Friday focused on the overall goal of achieving comprehensive peace in Sudan and did not deal with specific strategies. The White House is scheduled to reveal more details on their policy in the region in the coming days.

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism director Rabbi David Saperstein was originally scheduled to be part of the group but could not attend.

After the jump, the press release from the Interfaith Sudan Working Group and Save Darfur Coaltion:

Today, representatives from faith communities nationwide met with Reverend Joshua DuBois, Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to discuss the ongoing violence in Sudan. The leaders are members of the Interfaith Sudan Working Group, a coalition of faith-based organizations working for lasting peace in Sudan. During the meeting, Rev. DuBois expressed that Sudan is a critical issue for President Obama and that faith groups play an important role in drawing attention to the ongoing tragedy there.

At the meeting, Dr. Stephen Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delivered the Interfaith Sudan Working Group letter signed by 1,410 Christian, Jewish and Muslim Clergy. The letter asks the Obama administration to work with multilateral coalitions to ensure that the Darfuri people can return safely to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives. It also asks the United States to continue to lead for justice and lasting peace in Sudan and work toward full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Furthermore, the letter asks for a resolution in the lesser-known conflict in Eastern Sudan.

The faith leaders asked Rev. DuBois to convey their message to President Obama that Sudan should be a priority for his administration. Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service stressed that, “Full engagement and leadership now is critical as we move toward elections and the referendum.” Bishop David Jones from the Episcopal Church in Virginia added, “When the U.S. pays attention, the government of Sudan responds. We need the U.S. to take an interest.”

The group also asked administration officials to incorporate important policy recommendations from the Interfaith Sudan Working Group when they convene regular meetings prior to the 2010 Sudanese elections and 2011 referendum. Imam Mohamed Magid, the vice president for the Islamic Society of North America and director of the VA-based ADAMS Center noted that it is important to “reach out to religious leaders on the ground in Sudan to bring peace.” He added that we must “work to empower civil society and advocacy groups in Sudan.”

Galen Carey, the director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals said, “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was a major achievement, but it is an asset that is being wasted. The next few months are critical to moving things forward.”

Violence against women, which has been reported in staggering numbers recently, was also an area of concern for the faith leaders. Rev. DuBois stated that addressing gender-based violence was a priority for the President. AME Pastor and Co-Founder of My Sister’s Keeper Reverend Gloria White-Hammond articulated that “the impact of gender-based violence lasts long after the assault and effects the entire fabric of the society.” 

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian for the Armenian Church of America conveyed a broader message regarding genocide prevention and history. “If justice is not found in Sudan, there will be more genocide. We would like to find ways to end genocide in the 21st century.”

David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center, who was not able to attend the meeting said, "Activists around the world, including many within the North American Jewish community, have committed to continuously raising awareness of and being a voice for Darfur. But this critical issue is not just a call to the Jewish conscience – rather, it is a call to the conscience of all humanity, as genocide knows no religious or ethnic borders. For this reason, we are pleased that a number of prominent faith leaders across the religious spectrum met today with Joshua DuBois to underscore the importance of an interfaith alliance advocating for peace and security in Darfur and Sudan."


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