On March 22, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) put aside their differences and held a joint press conference about the alleged slave trade in Sudan, along with congressional colleagues, Reps. Frank Wolf, Donald Payne, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jo Ann Davis, and Tom Tancredo.
Armey stated: "Sudan today is a horror without parallel. It is the only place in the world in which religious genocide is taking place. People are being tortured, mutilated and killed solely because of their Christian faith. It is a place where two million people have been slaughtered more than in Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia combined."
Rangel said, "In the Sudan, the world is faced with a human-rights nightmare of the first order. We have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to use our international leadership to help end the civil war and the heartbreaking enslavement of women and children, which has intensified as a result of the hostilities."
The President of 'Christian Solidarity International (CSI) -France', 76-year-old father Paul Humbrecht, displays his map of what he called religious oppression throughout the world, in his presbytery at Rantzweiler 26 December. Humbrecht voiced concern over the alleged trafficking of slaves in Sudan. The CSI has already 'bought back' more than 4,000 slaves the past three years.
On March 7, at an International Relations Committee hearing in Congress, when Rep. Tom Tancredo asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about slavery, the bombing of schools and hospitals, and other atrocities in Sudan, the General parroted, "I do know there is no greater tragedy on the face of the Earth than the one unfolding in Sudan."
One would hasten to ask why Powell, Armey and his ilk, especially the Christian 'Right' have not spoken about the Sudanese dying because Clinton bombed the only pharmaceutical factory in Sudan to distract attention from his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky.
The sudden reawakening of interest in Sudan is more than Christian piety. Instead, it reeks heavily of oil and money.
The war between Sudan's Arabic-speaking, Muslim north and the black African, Christian and animist south has swung back and forth for most of the past 45 years. However, the discovery of at least 2 billion barrels of oil in a disputed region between north and south has changed the atmosphere. Construction of the oil pipeline to the coast began in 1998, and at the end of 1999, the oil first started to flow. Now, it is not just the American Christendom, but also Christendom worldwide--such as Christian Aid, a British-based charity-- that has taken up the Sudanese cause at heart--more specifically the cause of the southern rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
Western governments charge that oil has given the government the means to buy new weapons, and to set up its own arms industry. SPLA that serves as a proxy for Western interests and has threatened to attack foreign oil workers. However, the Christian forces are divided along tribal lines. In the 1990s, the SPLA split along ethnic lines, the Dinka and the Nuer, both of which live in the oil zone. Today, at least 6 factions led by local warlords are operating in the Nuer districts, living by the gun and carving out their own territory. Only one is linked to the SPLA.
The reality of the popular support for SPLA undermines the Western stance of championing it as a representative of its alleged constituency. Perhaps a less popular but Western propped entity is seen as a preferred guardian of Western interests. Indeed, the Western supported insurgency has led to great sufferings for the Sudanese people.
|'The war in southern Sudan is a made-for TV tool for evangelists seeking the big dollar--hapless Christians fighting Muslim fundamentalists.'|
Sudan is expected to experience two famines this year: some 3 million people are at risk, but the government must also defend the nation's integrity in the face of Western supported rebellion. Earlier this year the UN's World Food Program appealed for $135 million for Sudan, but raised almost nothing. On March 29, the UN appealed once again.
While the UN food appeal is getting no response, the Christian-generated hysteria is garnering huge rewards for the arousal experts. Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the legendary TV evangelist Billy and intimate of President George Bush, who runs Samaritan's Purse, one of the fastest growing charities in the US and has a budget of $150 million It owns eight aircraft, including a jet and a helicopter used by Graham to visit projects in 99 countries.
Selling the charity's work to wealthy American Christians is a sophisticated job. A four-man camera crew with studio-quality equipment trailed Graham on a swift tour of a hospital in southern Sudan.
The war in southern Sudan is a made-for TV tool for evangelists seeking the big dollar--hapless Christians fighting Muslim fundamentalists. The salt and pepper is supplied by way of dropping names like Osama M. Bin Laden and others.
Graham's menagerie of allies includes a Jewish rabbi, a Watergate ex-convict, the archconservative Jesse Helms, and Martin Luther King's widow.
He is vital to the Sudan lobby because of his unique influence on Bush. Their parents holiday together at the Bush summer retreat in Maine. And Graham, who once boasted that he talked to Bush about Sudan before the election, read the prayers at the Presidential Inauguration.
Inciting hysteria over Sudan is good business for the Christian Right. Many Americans fear that the war chest being built through misusing Sudan will be used to browbeat opposition at home.
Other evangelical organizations, including Voice of the Martyrs, Safe Harbor, and Frontline Fellowship, have also made recent trips to Sudan. So has a group of American Catholic bishops.
Fundraising in American churches for Sudan missions has grown exponentially, perhaps to a billion dollars a year or more. The claims of Sudanese slave rescues may be the most corrupt and disgraceful mission fundraising scam ever, says We Hold These Truths, a an Arizona based Christian organization. Organizers of that group also say many part-time mission volunteers are used as a legitimizing front for mail-order missionaries. Many unsuspecting donors honestly believe the bizarre and fanciful stories these groups pass along and seem unaware that they are providing cover for huge outright fundraising frauds.
These efforts are usually built around false claims of buying freedom for slaves. There is little or no financial accountability, and independent audits are not practical. Mail-order missionary groups are usually tax exempt, and U.S. government agencies seem to take little interest in their practice of scrubbing contributions through offshore bank accounts before spending the money. Nor do they show any concern about the truth or falsity of the claims. As a result, the phony slave trade game is an international con-man-of-the-cloth's delight.
Sham fundraising for Sudan began with the Celebrity Christians and mail order missionaries. However, it has now spread to larger, more established Christian missions and well-known media church organizations. A reliable source told We Hold These Truths that one nationally-known mission is reaping the most lucrative fund raising bonanza in its 25-year history since entering the Sudan fund-raising feeding frenzy.
Furthermore, these groups create a fear of the Islamic religion by perpetuating false tales of the Muslim government forcing Christians to convert to Islam. Those who resist, they are told, are killed ("martyred"), but there is no evidence to support these claims.
Another myth spread by these groups is that 2 to 3 million people have died, but these figures are at best dreamed up on computers by biased writers who never say how these millions have died.
Evangelist moneymakers are not the only ones benefiting from this war. Another exploiter is the US government. The mail-order missionaries are carrying out the established policy of the US government, that of both the Clinton administration and the new Bush administration. Scam fund-raising operates under the protection and with the blessing of the most powerful propaganda organization in the world, the U.S. State Department.
President Clinton established a standard of lying and cheating in order to destroy the government of Sudan. America's Christian groups know that they can safely lie to their supporters because their government is telling the same lies.
Sudan's state oil company has a number of foreign partners, including Petrochina, Talisman Energy of Canada, Petronas of Malaysia, and several European oil companies, including Sweden's Lundin Oil, Austria's OMV-Sudan, Italy's Agip, and France's Elf-Aquitaine and Total Fina.
In America, the administration is being assailed by an increasingly angry lobby that includes African Americans who have been shocked into action by reports of alleged slavery and by the fundamentalist Christian groups, which support the south because it is partly Christian. The administration is also under pressure from American oil companies, several of which would like to join their rivals in exploiting Sudan's new riches. In 1995, America imposed sanctions on Sudan, forbidding investment. However, the companies are reluctant to risk association with Sudan until it changes for the better, and they would like America to help bring about that change. George Bush, reacting to these various lobbies, has ordered a review of American policy.
Despite the shrill calls from his ideological partners, the Christian Right, Bush has decided to increase staff at Washington's embassy in Khartoum.
Analysts believe that only by engaging the current regime, headed by the National Islamic Front (NIF), can Washington hope to halt an ever-more destructive war, which has killed more than two million people over the past 18 years.
There is even talk of sending an ambassador. Several names have been mentioned for the post, including former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former president Jimmy Carter, former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, and former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell.
The oil interest dominated government in Washington is playing a multifaceted game with Khartoum. The Rightist lobby is creating a public furor and top administration officials including Gen. Powell are deriding the Sudanese government. But at the same time, the administration is taking a cautious approach. The Christian lobby's oil connection is completely transparent, because the same group has however had nothing to say about the position of Christians in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The approach seems to pressure Sudan into doing two things, first to offer the Christians terms that will help the U.S. to enjoy greater flexibility in that region, and second, to offer the American oil companies a piece of the oil pie. The use of force to oust the European oil interests from Sudan may not play well in Europe, especially with the NATO partners. Thus, Bush is hoping to see Khartoum bend to pressure amid the Christian war cries.
Abdul Haqq is a writer on international affairs and lives in the Washington, D.C. area.