Christian 'slave redeemers' linked to pro-apartheid militants

Category: World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, South Sudan, Sudan Views: 14771

"In spite of the odds, the Christians [of Sudan] are 'doing something' about their situation, they are standing up against the evil of Islam. . . not only fighting for survival, but fighting to win back that nation for Christ." - Derek Hammond, missionary affiliated with South African pro-apartheid group, Frontline Fellowship

Part I:Sudan 'Anti-slavery' campaign is outgrowth of pro-Israel lobby
Part II:Christian 'slave redeemers' linked to pro-apartheid militants
Part III:American Muslims in false dilemma over Sudan war has learned that Christian "slave redeemers" who are allied with Sudanese rebels have close links to militant South African missionary groups with ties to the former apartheid government of South Africa.

Swiss-based Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is one of the most prominent missionary groups involved in the Sudanese war. CSI portrays the conflict as a war imposed by the Muslim and Arab North to forcibly convert a black African Christian South. "The Government of Sudan is waging a 'Holy War' to Islamize by force the ethnically and religiously diverse country," reads CSI literature. Experts say that while religion plays a role in the conflict, this view of the war is narrow and simplistic.

The dominant rebel Sudanese militia is the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The SPLA claims to be defending the population of South Sudan from Khartoum's army and from Islamization. "Though its members claim to be 'Christians' resisting Islamization, they have behaved like an occupying army, killing, raping and pillaging," wrote the New York Times.

CSI has publicly embraced the SPLA. In March of this year, the United Nations stripped CSI of its UN accreditation after the group invited SPLA commander John Garang to represent it in a meeting before the UN Commission on Human Rights. Garang gave what the U.S. representative called "an intemperate speech" about military matters, then distributed his remarks on SPLA letterhead.

CSI "allowed themselves to be used as a Trojan horse for a group that expresses very different goals than the United Nations," a UN source told

Using money raised by Charles Jacobs' American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and others, CSI sends its activists to South Sudan to pay for the release of South Sudanese civilians captured by militias allied with Khartoum. It calls the practice "slave redemption." The operations are organized and protected by the SPLA.

CSI says that to date it has paid for the release of 11,147 Sudanese. The tactic has been condemned by UNICEF and others, who say buying captives does not address the roots of the problem and actually encourages the taking of slaves as a profit-making venture.

Some observers suggest that the money raised in the United States for "slave redemption" may help finance members of the SPLA. Charles Omandi, an official of the Sudan Catholic Information Office of the Sudanese Diocese of Rumbek, told

"...the whole thing is organised by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). One long serving European priest, who did not want to be named for security reasons said: 'How can the CSI be sure that the SPLA officials are not manipulating them for selfish ends when even the translators who help them transact the deals are given to them by the movement?'"

One of CSI's top officials is Gunnar Wiebalck, a white South African in charge of disaster aid at the group's international headquarters in Switzerland. Along with CSI activist John Eibner, Wiebalck is a high-profile participant in CSI's "slave redemption" missions.

Wiebalck is also the former executive secretary of South Africa-based United Christian Action (UCA). UCA is an umbrella body of militant right-wing Christian groups that defended white minority rule during the apartheid era. A secret South African army document revealed in 1997 before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified UCA as a covert propaganda project of the Apartheid government's security apparatus. UCA's main role was to combat anti-apartheid activism.

UCA zealously attacked all activities that it saw as threatening to the apartheid system. The group demonstrated when Archbishop Desmond Tutu became the first black primate (title for a ranking clergy member) of the Anglican Church of South Africa. UCA demanded that security forces arrest a group of white anti-apartheid Christian activists who defied official segregation by traveling to a black township for Bible study. The activists had tried, with the trip, to break down social and psychological barriers created by apartheid.

And when it was rumored that the government was contemplating the release of jailed anti-apartheid leader (and future Noble Peace Prizewinner and South African president) Nelson Mandela, UCA circulated 12,000 flyers demanding he be kept in jail. "Time is short. Mandela could be released before Christmas," UCA warned.

Asked whether Wiebalck should repudiate his pro-apartheid past, CSI's American spokesman said he disagreed with's characterization of UCA.

Wiebalck is only one player in a web of support by veteran South African, pro-apartheid activists for Sudan's rebels.

CSI directs reporters to the web site for more information about the evils of Western companies that invest in the country. The site says it is operated by ViTrade Research, a "non-affiliated, non-religious, independent financial risk analysis and research company with global expertise as international commodity traders, fraud investigators, economists, bank regulators and examiners, and global risk managers and consultants."

In reality, there is no corporate record of the existence of a "ViTrade," other than a California firm that lost its corporate status in 1993. The Indian Ocean Newsletter says the site "functions, in fact, thanks to gifts from a few individuals." is operated by Dennis Bennett, a former banker and financial risk analyst. He is credited with being a driving force behind a campaign to force American pension funds to sell their holdings in the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy Inc., which invests in Sudan. Bennett helped compile the list of pension funds holding shares in Talisman.

Bennett is also a leader of In Touch Mission International (ITMI), a Christian missionary group based in Tempe, Arizona. Bennett told he is project director of ITMI's Blue Nile Project, which he says delivers bibles and hymnals to southern Sudan.

ITMI is the American arm of the South Africa-based ultra-right missionary group Frontline Fellowship. Frontline Fellowship activists have made dozens of trips to South Sudan, where they say they "smuggle Bibles" to Christian Sudanese. ITMI collects money for Frontline Fellowship and serves as its U.S. base of operations (Frontline Fellowship lists ITMI's phone number on its web site in its contact information, and ITMI solicits donations for the group on its web site).

The chairman of Frontline Fellowship is Peter Hammond, a former South African army sniper and intelligence officer. Hammond, the son-in-law of ITMI president Bill Bathman, formed Frontline Fellowship on a South African military base in Namibia, drawing on ex-Rhodesian commando units for members. Frontline Fellowship literature called the South African army und,er apartheid a "missionary force" which must be supported. He is also the , current director of UCA (of CSI's Gunnar Wiebalck), of which Frontline Fellowship has been a member since the 1980s.

"If you believe Christ wants a holy war to preserve apartheid, the Reverend Peter Hammond is your general, his Frontline Fellowship your army," wrote the National Catholic Reporter in 1989.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reported in February that moderate Christian relief agencies delivering aid to South Sudan such as Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan (CEAS) "say the Fellowship understands the southern Sudanese conflict in purely religious terms and therefore only heightens opposition between Christian and Moslems there." CEAS also "criticizes the Fellowship's strong-arm tactics, the presence of mercenaries in its ranks, and the fact it allegedly offered military equipment to the southern Sudanese rebels."

The government of Sudan charges that Frontline Fellowship is running weapons to the SPLA. Hammond denies this, but his group has a history of such activities.

Kathi Austin, a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center for African Studies and a former researcher for Human Rights Watch, told she took photographs of military equipment Frontline Fellowship smuggled into Mozambique in support of South African-backed rebels--under the cover of smuggling religious material.

Ian Gray, an Australian who was recruited in 1986 for missionary work by one of the many supposedly religious groups associated with the Mozambique rebels, soon found himself tasked with carrying military messages for the insurgents. Gray said in a 1988 interview that Hammond was involved in more than proselytizing.

According to Gray, Hammond was often surrounded by former South African military men, whom he described as being more military than missionary. Gray said that whenever Hammond arrived at the rebel base, "there were other guys that were with him that were involved in military activities." He said he doubted their claim to be missionaries because "a lot of them even had liquor."

Hammond's brother Derek runs a missionary group called Faith in Action, also known as Love in Action. The group, according to its web site, is affiliated with Frontline Fellowship. Derek Hammond describes the Sudanese conflict as the fault of "the anti-Christian religion of Islam." But, says Hammond, "in spite of the odds, the Christians are 'doing something' about their situation, they are standing up against the evil of Islam. . . not only fighting for survival, but fighting to win back that nation for Christ."

Bennett's public relations work for Frontline Fellowship and the SPLA's cause is extensive. In addition to serving as Webmaster for (the phone number listed for ViTrade in its Internet site documentation is ITMI's Tempe office), both the Frontline Fellowship and In Touch Mission International web sites are registered to him.

Bennett's publicist, McGlothlin & Associates, ensures he is a regular on the right-wing talk radio circuit. McGlothlin also does public relations work for Frontline Fellowship's Hammond, Ed Cain (UCA's former president), and various Midwestern militia groups.

Another US-based associate of Hammond is Brad Phillips, director of the Virginia-based, Christian, patriot organization, U.S. Taxpayers Alliance (USTA). Phillips runs the Persecution Project for the alliance, which promotes the fight against Christian persecution.

Phillips' group has produced a video version of Hammond's book "Faith Under Fire," called "Sudan: The Hidden Holocaust." USTA promotional material says the video "reveals the unknown struggle of the African Christian tribes of central and southern Sudan who are presently engaged in a life-and-death battle against radical, Moslem invaders from the north." When customers buy the video, they rece,ive Persecution Project's "special report," "Sudan: The Cross vs. The Crescent."

The video was produced on-location with Hammond by Jeremiah Films, a company best known for such controversial documentaries as "The Clinton Chronicles" and "The God Makers II." The latter depicts Mormons as Satan worshippers, homosexuals, child abusers and murderers. (The film was condemned by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.)

Like Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Phillips slams the anti-apartheid movement. "The hypocrisy of the antiapartheid movement always upset me," he told Insight on the News. "That crowd never cared about blacks mistreating other blacks. They just cared about whites mistreating blacks. Thus they went after Rhodesia. Thus they went after South Africa."

Howard Phillips, father of Brad Phillips and the founder of the U.S. Taxpayers Alliance, was a staunch advocate of the apartheid regime during the 1980s.

In a 1988 "geopolitical/financial tour" organized by Phillips, one of his aids encouraged the assassination of anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "The least you can do is remove the idiot's passport and not let him travel over to our country, and somebody might want to even shoot him," the aid told an audience of Durban businessmen.

Veteran advocates of South African government causes have also been associated with the government of Sudan, although their support is much less significant.

Bruce Fein, a lawyer from northern Virginia, actually wrote the constitution that South African-backed Renamo rebels in Mozambique wanted to replace that country's constitution with. The Embassy of Sudan employed Fein as a lobbyist until the United States implemented economic sanctions against Khartoum that prevented him from receiving money.

So what does all this mean? For the answer to that question, read the analysis of the facts of these relationships in Part III of this investigative series, American Muslims in false dilemma over Sudan war.

Ismail Royer is the Washington Bureau Chief

1Time, December 21, 1998 pg. 44
2On one trip in January of this year Wiebalck was accompanied by SPLA Executive Council Member Arthur Akuien Chol, John Garang's minister of finance and economic planning. See The Indian Ocean Newsletter, April 26, 1997
3 United Press International October 30, 1989
4 Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), September 23, 1999. The document referred to was reproduced in: Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg) September 19, 1997
5 Financial Times (London), September 8, 1986
6 Time, March 28, 1988; also, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) March 19, 1988
7 Chicago Sun-Times 12/11/1987
8 The Indian Ocean Newsletter, November 27, 1999
9 Ibid.
10 Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), September 23, 1999
11 The Arizona Republic, 10/29/1989 Page A14
12 Mail and Guardian, September 23, 1999
13 Africa News, November, 1989
14 Mail and Guardian, September 23, 1999
15 Africa News, November, 1989
16 For example: "Militia Leaders Propose Solution to End Montana Standoff," PR Newswire, May 23, 1996
17 The Nation , 9/26/88, Pg. 228

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, South Sudan, Sudan
Views: 14771

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