March 30, 2009
On March 4, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar Ahmad Al Bashir, the president of Sudan. The warrant charged Bashir with individual responsibility on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. Specially, it alleged he is criminally responsibility for a campaign of murder, rape, torture, pillage, and forcible transfer against the civilian, and largely Islamic, population of Darfur. The ICC alleges the campaign, conducted over the 5 year period from April 2003 to July 2008, was planned at the highest levels of the Sudanese government. The attacks were carried out by the Sudanese armed forces, the Sudanese police force, the Sudanese national security service, and allied “Janjaweed” militias. The warrant claims Bashir either coordinated the design of the campaign or, as head of state, used state agencies to implement the campaign.
We should recall that before the atrocities began in Darfur, they were widespread in the south of Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains (which I will collectively refer to as “the south”). In fact, the explosion in Darfur essentially coincided with the winding down of the war in the south. Cynics will say that the Sudanese government signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south, in part, to enable it to divert forces to persecute the people of Darfur.
The genocidal war against the people of the south (recognized as such by the United States government) has been largely forgotten in the justified world-wide outrage over Darfur. But millions of innocent people were killed by the government in the prior war. The government, dominated by the radical National Islamic Front, targeted civilians, destroyed Christian churches, and revived the slave trade through a declaration of “jihad” against the “infidels” of the south.
My point is certainly not to assume the wisdom of having an International Criminal Court. Rather, the occasion of the issuance of the warrant for the arrest of the president of Sudan is an opportunity to remember the dead, many of whom were true martyrs, dying for their Christian faith.
The occasion of the issuance of the warrant is also an opportunity for remembering the living, the millions who live without religious freedom, who are persecuted, who are enslaved, who are tortured, and who are rendered homeless through the destruction of their homes and villages. In the weeks leading to Easter, we should pray for them and do whatever we can to help.