Prayer and Action for Darfur April 2006
Dear Faith Leader:
As communities of faith, we are called to stand against injustice. Today, our collective strength is urgently needed to end the genocide in Darfur, in western Sudan. Since 2003, 400,000 people have died, 2.5 million people have been displaced and 3.5 million people risk starvation.
The Million Voices for Darfur Campaign is an unprecedented effort to end this genocide. It is being organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 150 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations. We will collect one million postcards encouraging President George Bush in his call for a stronger multinational force to protect the people of Darfur. We will also rally on April 30, 2006 in Washington, DC.
The Campaign is inviting faith communities to participate in this important initiative. We hope you will hold a service or incorporate a special segment about Darfur into your regular worship service or other spiritual assembly.
To inform us of your participation in the Campaign, please register at www.SaveDarfur.org/faith. You can then download materials and informational items to assist in organizing your service.
During the service, please distribute the enclosed bulletin inserts and postcards. As an act of worship, your congregants can complete the postcards during the service. Also, please encourage them to witness to others in their community and collect additional postcards.
We also invite you to lead your congregation to the “Rally to Stop Genocide”on Sunday, April 30, 2006 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The rally is conveniently scheduled for 2:00-4:00 p.m.—after the customary worship hours. It will bring together concerned survivors of genocides, clergy, national leaders, public officials, and celebrities.
Once again we are being weighed in the balance. We can either speak out and become agents of justice, or remain silent and be rendered irrelevant. I hope you will lead your congregation to declare in word and deed, “Not on our watch!”
Praying that peace, protection, and mercy prevail in Sudan,
Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D.,
Co-Pastor, Bethel AME Church, Boston, MA
Chairwoman, Million Voices for Darfur Campaign
Commitments Thank you for your support for the Million Voices campaign. Today, millions of people are suffering from a preventable humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, but countless more can be saved. While we and other advocacy organizations have been urging specific actions since the crisis began, the key decision makers have not yet felt the public pressure necessary to force them to act. The Million Voices for Darfur campaign has been designed to help millions of Americans make their voices heard. As communities of faith the best way to add your voice to the campaign is by participating in the week of prayer and action on April 2-9. We have sample materials to help facilitate your participation. My Congregation will commit to:
Participate in the Million Voices for Darfur Campaign by asking members to fill out bulletin insert or postcard.
Hold a service or sermon for Darfur. (We will provide sample sermons and basic talking points)
Take the campaign beyond the church by participating in a day of witness where members of the congregation take to streets to get postcards signed. If 20 people from each participating congregation got 10 postcards signed over 120,000 postcards could be collected in that day alone.
Sign on to the letter calling on President Bush and his administration to take action to protect the people of Darfur.
Rally in DC on April 30th, or organize a local rally in our community.
“If every member of the house and senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crises was first developing, then I think the response would have been different”
- Former US Senator Paul Simon
Please send this letter with your commitments indicated to: The Save Darfur Coalition
c/o Martha Heinemann
2120 L Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
Background on the Crisis in Darfur
Since February 2003 over 400,000 people have died and over 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. Each day, over 500 innocent people die from violence, malnutrition and disease. The people of Darfur experience horrendous crimes, including gang rapes of women and girls, burning of homes and religious buildings, killing of babies, and other atrocities. Despite their efforts to help civilians, relief organizations have been targeted and aid workers have been
Photo courtesy of Jerry Fowler, United States Holocaust Museum
arrested by the Sudanese government. Today, more than 2.5 million people are suffering from a preventable humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, but countless more can be saved. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter.
Government-backed militias, known collectively as the Janjaweed, have systematically eliminated entire communities and continue to do so. Government air strikes frequently precede these vicious militia raids. Villages are razed; women, men, and children are raped, tortured, and murdered. The Janjaweed also target and destroy Darfurian food and water supplies, threatening the victim’s chance for survival. These people are being deprived of
their humanity. Many of them have lost their homes, communities, families, and dreams for the future. The Sudanese government has failed to protect them. The government has not only denied involvement with the massacres, but its police have also attacked displacement camps. Recent reports show that while violence continues, survivors in overcrowded refugee camps are threatened by disease and famine. If the violence continues and people do not receive adequate aid and protection, many more Darfurians will die. These people need our help. As humans, we owe them our support and prayers. As Americans we owe them our courage and experience. We must do something to help those who suffer, and THIS TIME WE CAN.
Tips for Participating in Million Voices
Collecting a million postcards as part of our Million Voices for Darfur campaign is a challenge that we cannot overcome without the help of individuals from across the country. Filling out a postcard is a simple, yet powerful action that will show our elected leaders that Americans want immediate action to protect the people of Darfur. A million postcards will generate a clear call for action that cannot be ignored. The following document will give you some ideas to ensure your event produces the maximum number of postcards both during the event and long after the lights go off. Thanks for your participation, and good luck.
Appoint a committee or point-person to both collect the postcards and ensure that they are delivered to the Save Darfur Coalition.
Put up fliers prior to the day of participation to raise awareness about the sermon or prayer for Darfur.
Have materials prepared: packets to hand people when they enter the room and a collection box at the exits for filled out postcards and bulletin inserts.
Arrange for a specific time during the service for the congregation to sign the postcard/bulletin insert.
Distribute a packet of information as people enter the event. This packet could include 5 postcards, a pen, background information on the genocide in Darfur, and a sheet suggesting further ways to take action.
Have the speaker provide context on why everyone’s participation is important. We have supplied basic talking points to assist you with this.
Ask your main speaker to appeal to people in the middle of his/her speech to fill out a postcard right then and there. The speaker should stop the presentation and give the audience a few seconds to fill out a postcard. There is incentive for everyone to participate at the same time in this collective action. A volunteer should go to the end of each row to collect the signed postcards after this is done, or they can be collected when people exit the event.
The speaker should also make a simple pitch during the sermon that every individual in attendance knows at least 4 more people who want to stop genocide, and audience members should ask their friends and family sign the extra postcards.
At the end of the event fill out the postcard/batch form and put in the mail to:
Leader: The plight of our brothers and sisters in the African country of Sudan, in the region of Darfur resounds with horror. Over the past three years, more than 400,000 people have died, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes, and 3.5 million people are at risk of starvation. The faith community must be vigilant and act to end this humanitarian crisis.
People: We have the power to stop it. But we must act now, before it’s too late. We offer our support and prayers to the people of Darfur.
Leader: Every day, more than 500 innocent people die from violence, malnutrition and disease. The faith community must be vigilant and act to end this humanitarian crisis.
People: We have the power to stop it. But we must act now, before it’s too late. We will lend our voices to the Million Voices for Darfur Campaign.
Leader: The people of Darfur experience horrendous crimes, including gang rapes of women and girls, burning of homes and religious buildings, killing of babies, and other atrocities. The faith community must be vigilant and act to end this humanitarian crisis.
People: We have the power to stop it. But we must act now, before it’s too late. We will be one of the million American citizens who complete the postcard, calling for the United States to support a stronger multinational force to protect the people of Darfur.
Leader: In the 20th century, we have known mass slaughter of human life, displacement, starvation, and rape as a means of ethnic cleansing in Armenia, The Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda. Now in South Sudan and in Darfur, hundreds of lives have been lost in the 21st century, but countless more can be saved. The faith community must be vigilant and act to end this humanitarian crisis.
All: We are witnessing the destruction of human life. Let us join hearts with the faith community throughout America—in prayer, in action, and in spirit, to let the Darfarian people know that they are not abandoned. Not on our watch, we will stand idly by and have genocide occur. We pray that peace, protection, and mercy prevail in Sudan. Amen.
“I want to join my prayers to many other voices. Every few months we are driven away from one refugee camp to the other, so far in the desert where nothing, nothing at all exists. This is no way for a human being to live. No way to live in such a shocking place – uncultivated, waterless, treeless and barren region...! Everything is burning, Lord, around me, around us ... in me, in us ... Everything is barren, hell, hell...! Yet, Lord, we believe you are there, beside us. We pray for all the Africans living now our same condition. Bring back peace and tranquility to our beloved country. Peace which is desired by everybody, the old and young, rich and poor, women and men. Amen ... amen ... Let it be so.”
Loving God, we know there are tremendous problems facing the world – natural disasters, civil wars, violence, disparities in resources, and sickness –
We confess that there are days when we look the other way, change the channel, or pretend the problems don’t exist. We say that the problem is someone else’s concern or displace the blame. We are not confident that we can make an impact and we fear failure for ourselves and on the behalf of others. We might even think that moving to make a difference will change us in ways that we will not like or make us uncomfortable. Before we begin, we desire to give up – on our opponents and on the victims. Forgive us for our faint-heartedness and selfishness, for failing to love others as we should, and for failing to believe that you have empowered us to protect our brothers and sisters. Remind us Holy One that some faithful persons refused to give up on us, and that You have not given up on any of us. AMEN.
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
Proverbs 24: 11-12
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?
Come let us go up the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation--neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.
Isaiah 58: 9-12
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets and Dwellings.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. (KJV)
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Sample Christian Sermon What if God is One of Us?
Luke 10: 25-37
August 8, 2004
By Reverend Dr. Roy Howard, Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, Rockville, MD
Let us begin with a confession. We have heard the story of the Good Samaritan so many times that we can hardly hear it again without daydreaming through the telling. We shudder to hear one more sermon on it. Hasn't everything been said that can possibly be said about the poor man lying on the side of the road, the callous cold-hearted religious and civic leaders who pass him by muttering their weak excuses and the unexpected, shocking hero, the Good Samaritan, the outcast from the outcast tribe who rescues the suffering one and puts all the insiders to shame by his compassion. What's left? All that's left is the conclusion we've heard at least a hundred times: go and be like the Good Samaritan. We yawn. We have heard it so often that it is nearly impossible to hear this story afresh.
We confess more, that the standard interpretation - the one we have heard so often - has convinced us of the truth of the banal notion that the gospel really is all about us, alone. We have learned that the story is about being a hero and most of us have silently dismissed it for that reason because we don't think of ourselves as heroic, at least not when it comes to risking everything to help a half-dead stranger. Still, we praise the Good Samaritan as a fine example of what we should do and marvel at the eloquence of the parable. Silently dismissing the story either with guilt or embarrassment at our failure to enact it is a subtle admission that we have been lured into accepting the false notion that Christianity is actually a self-centered, rather than a God-centered, religion. We have allowed that the Gospel is a primer for moralism, all about us alone. In the glare of the heroic, we have forgotten that the Gospel is a witness to the power of God's Spirit to do in us and through what is otherwise impossible, taking risks of love and compassion for a stranger.
Perhaps, by God's grace, even that confession may not get us off the hook today. For, in our confession lies the possibility that we will not mentally go out to lunch, but instead summon ourselves before God to hear afresh this poignant, powerful story that lies at the very center of Jesus' ministry and the heart of Christian discipleship. Perhaps, our honest confession will be the one act that allows us not to leave this sanctuary untouched, undisturbed, unmoved by a story that demonstrates the power of risk-taking love on behalf of a stranger in need.
Confessing my boredom and not wanting to inflict you with more of the same, I went looking for God in this story. Whether I discovered God is a question best left unanswered; but two events merged that helped me to hear with fresh ears this parable. The first event was a commentary on a nightly news program and the second was a song that kept singing into my soul.
What I saw the other night was babies with large eyes and limbs the size of tooth picks. They were in the arms of women looking sad and frightened, telling stories of being assaulted repeatedly, their husbands killed in front of them and, their families forced to flee for safety across a vast desert with no bread or water. That was what I heard the moment I settled into a chair at the end of the day to listen to the news. A so-called random selection of television choices. The stories were heart breaking, but the photos harder. One click of the remote at the end of the day and suddenly there was a congressman asking a very direct question. So direct that it hit me with the force of the Word of God. I suspect this is why, the theologian Karl Barth once said we are to read the bible in one hand with the news in the other.
The congressman who had traveled to the Darfur region of Sudan was pleading, "Where in God's name are the churches on this issue? And what their leaders - Pastors, Priests, Rabbis and Imans - saying to them?" I set the remote down; sealed the bag of chips and listened as if he were speaking to me; which of course he was, only more directly than he could ever imagine.
"Don't they know that nearly 300,000 people are already going to die and that with no more immediate action, 1 million men, women and children will die needlessly because the world community did not do anything?" He went on, "now, I understand for the first time, how the world could have sat by and let a holocaust of 6 million Jews be slaughtered while we talked endlessly about resolutions, delays and hesitations. But, not now, we should know better. What will be our fate if we let this happen again? This is genocide before our eyes. Couldn't the religious communities at least raise their voices for these children, who are nearly half-dead already, and not wait another 30 days or 90 days?"
Nearly half-dead already? My God, I thought, he is talking about the man lying beside the road to Jericho. He is pointing to the priest and the lawyer and all the others who walk past him, doing nothing, offering up religious reasons for their unwillingness to take a risk for the sake of one who is dying. Without knowing it, he is asking where are the good Samaritans who will rise up to help?
Stricken by the Word of God, I responded by writing to my senators and representatives asking for their leadership in getting immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur, and demanding the Sudan government stop the marauding bands of Jinjaweed Arab militia who are doing the killing, raping and pillaging of the people. This is not enough for one whose duty it is to shepherd the flock and preach the gospel.
Why do any of this? Is it simply because a congressman's harangue was effective enough to prod me into action? Frankly, politicians harangue about all issues and clergy are always targets of criticism for our action or non-action. No, the congressman's plea was not the only reason. There was a theological reason, too. The song that urged itself upon me suggests it. It draws our attention to truth lies at the heart of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan.
The song by Joan Osborn is called "One of Us." It's the theme song for the television show Joan of Acadia in which God appears in a thousand disguises of human form. I'm going to pay now a snippet of that song. [Play song]
Isn't this the reason why we act in compassion for the suffering ones? Not simply out of moral duty, but because we believe that God came among us in human form? We believe that God's children are indeed bearers of God's image. Jesus taught us that we will never know when we are offering love to him, when we don't turn away, but risk doing something, some small act of caring for the hungry - children with large eyes, extended bellies and toothpick limbs; the thirsty -mothers who walk across deserts of Sudan with no water but a hope for life; the naked, those without shelter, the sick. What if God was one of us? Jesus tells us that in fact we are to treat others as if we are treating God. That is why it's important to listen to the cries of the people of Darfur, to join with Senate majority leader Bill Frist, calling for immediate assistance and stopping of the atrocities; to call, email or write our representatives. Because God is one of us, lying half-dead along the side of the road in place called Darfur Sudan. To do nothing is to turn away from Jesus who meets us in the stranger.
The priest had his religious excuses for passing by the man. There is always some rule allowing him not him to get involved. We have our excuses too; all of them well reasoned and carefully crafted justifications for non-compassion. My dearest friend reminded me that the parable of the Good Samaritan is a cautionary tale directed to those who would allow their religion to keep them from stepping outside of their comfort zone for God's sake.
It was the one least expected, the outsider, who helped the man. Every since then he has been called the Good Samaritan. Actually, he was only an ordinary man walking along the side of the road who saw a man nearly dying. He recognized him as his neighbor and in so doing, reached out to help him. That's all; nothing heroic unless, of course, doing the good deed is heroism.
When the story was over, Jesus asked the lawyer who proved himself a neighbor?
Ten easy ways to organize in your community for the Save Darfur rally and the Million Voices for Darfur postcard campaign:
1. Sign up for the Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide. Visit the Save Darfur Coalition site to join the Million Voices postcard campaign and pledge to attend the Save Darfur rally: www.SaveDarfur.org.
2. Organize a delegation of your members to attend the rally.Recruit people in your organization to attend the Save Darfur rally, and follow-up with them by phone and e-mail to ensure their participation. For more information about organizing for the rally, contact Chuck Thies at Rally@SaveDarfur.org.
3. Distribute Million Voices for Darfur postcards.Distribute Million Voices postcards and background information about Darfur to your congregation and at community events. Ask people to sign the postcards online at www.SaveDarfur.org, or contact MillionVoices@SaveDarfur.org to order printed postcards.
4. Tell a friend about the Save Darfur rally.Send an e-mail about the Million Voices postcard campaign and the Save Darfur rally to your congregation’s members. See page 12 for some sample text. Or use the Save Darfur Coalition website’s “Tell a Friend” feature to spread the word. The form is available at www.SaveDarfur.org.
5. Recruit leaders.Form a committee of 3-5 other members of your congregation to assist with outreach efforts.
6. Spread the word and raise awareness about Darfur. Put a Save Darfur rally notice in your weekly bulletin and feature the Darfur issue in your monthly newsletter and on your Web site. Contact Rally@SaveDarfur.org for a rally announcement ad to place in your bulletin.
7. Host a speaker. Arrange for a Darfur activist to address and educate your congregation. For information on how to arrange a speaker’s visit, contact Speakers@SaveDarfur.org.
8. Be visible. Put flyers and Darfur petitions/rally sign up sheets on bulletin boards and tables. You can find flyers, posters and additional Save Darfur rally materials at
9. Host a movie showing. Showing films such as “Hotel Rwanda” or “Sometimes in
April” will help unite members behind the campaign. The Save Darfur Coalition has also produced a DVD, “A 21st Century Genocide”, which is available at www.SaveDarfur.org.
10. Organize a photo exhibit. Create a display of Darfur photographs in your congregation to help educate your community about the genocide in Darfur. E-mail Info@SaveDarfur.org if you are interested in hosting a photo exhibit.
Rally to Stop Genocide
April 30, 2006 — Washington, DC Save Darfur Rally E-mail
Use this sample e-mail to contact members of your congregation and bring your commitment to the Million Voices for Darfur campaign to their attention.
To: Members of your congregation
Subject: Take Action against Genocide in Darfur Hi,
Please join me in participating in the Million Voices for Darfur postcard campaign and attending the Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide on April 30 in Washington, DC.
Since February 2003, a government-backed militia known as Janjaweed has been engaging in a genocidal campaign to wipe out communities of African tribal farmers in Darfur, Sudan.
Millions of people now live in camps lacking adequate food, water, shelter, healthcare and sanitation. As you may know, the genocide in Darfur has left over 400,000 people dead and over two million displaced.
We can either speak out and become agents of justice, or remain silent and be rendered irrelevant. I hope you will help me lead our congregation to declare in word and deed, “Not on our watch!”
The Save Darfur Coalition’s Million Voices for Darfur campaign is collecting signatures to send to President Bush calling for greater protection for the people of Darfur. Activists against the genocide from across the country will join together for the Save Darfur: Rallyto Stop Genocide on April 30 in Washington, DC. To send a Million Voices postcard and sign up to attend the rally, visit: www.SaveDarfur.org.
Please mark your calendar now and then forward this message on to your family and friends
– and ask them to do the same.
I will be organizing people from our community to attend the rally, so please contact me at
_______ if you’d like more information or want to get more involved in our outreach effort.
To learn more about the situation in Darfur, visit: www.SaveDarfur.org.
Praying that peace, protection, and mercy prevail in Sudan,
Rally to Stop Genocide
April 30, 2006 — Washington, DC Congregation Bulletin Announcement
Put this announcement for the rally in your congregation’s newsletters and bulletins. You can also use the optional text below to localize the announcement for your community.
Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide
April 30, 2006 in Washington, D.C. Since February 2003, the Sudanese government’s genocidal campaign in Darfur has claimed over 400,000 lives and driven two million people from their homes. The communities of faith are mobilizing to stop the genocide in Darfur because we know that “never again” must not be an empty slogan, and that there is much more the United States can do to save Darfur.
The “Million Voices for Darfur” postcard campaign is an effort to collect one million signatures on print and electronic postcards urging President Bush to take action. Darfur activists will come together and deliver these signatures at the Save Darfur: Rally to StopGenocide on April 30 in Washington, D.C.
To sign up for the rally and send a Million Voices postcard, go to www.SaveDarfur.org. For more information about the rally or to order print postcards, please e-mail MillionVoices@SaveDarfur.org.
OPTIONAL LOCALIZED SECTION:
Here at ____________, we are organizing to join the Save Darfur rally and the national
campaign to stop the genocide by ____________________. Contact ______________ at
______________ for more information about how to get involved.