Bishop Gassis Seeks Help for the Sudanese

By Baptist, Erik | Insight on the News, July 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Bishop Gassis Seeks Help for the Sudanese


Baptist, Erik, Insight on the News


Bishop Macram Max Gassis of Sudan calls upon the international community to put an end to a `new Holocaust' that has been devastating his homeland.

For 18 years a brutal civil war has ravaged the African nation of Sudan. With about 2 million people killed and another 4 million displaced, the Muslim Arab government's attacks on the animist and Christian blacks in the south have taken a grim toll. As the racial and religious persecution has escalated, thousands of black women and children have been enslaved. Despite these well-documented outrages, the rest of the world has been little involved in trying to stem the crisis.

Nonetheless, Christian and animist groups in control of areas in the South continue to resist Sudan's Islamic fundamentalist government in far-off Khartoum. They operate under an umbrella group called the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

In the search for peace and justice, Roman Catholic Bishop Macram Max Gassis has become an internationally recognized spokesman for victims of the government. As the leader of the El Obeid Diocese in central Sudan, Gassis has offered his people spiritual hope and his personal courage at a time when they need it the most. He also has established the Bishop Gassis Sudan Relief Fund as a way of providing direct assistance to those suffering in southern Sudan.

Gassis has lobbied government officials throughout the world, testified before Congress and appealed to inter national organizations to seek global assistance for a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Sudan.

Insight: The United States and other Western democracies have intervened militarily in Kosovo and Bosnia to stop further human-rights violations. Yet many more people have been killed in the African bloodbath in the Sudan than in those two European areas combined. Why has the West intervened in Europe while leaving the Sudan to suffer?

Macram Max Gasis: To add to the paradox in your question: The Western countries -- the United States and the nations of Europe -- intervened to save Kuwait and also, automatically, Saudi Arabia, as [Iraqi strongman] Saddam [Hussein] moved to sweep over those Muslim Arab states. And the Western nations did the same when they attacked Saddam to try to protect the Kurds. They even intervened to protect the Kosovars, who also are Muslims. Why then are the Western nations afraid to say, "Let us protect the people of the Sudan from an unjust war, from genocide, from ethnic cleansing, from slavery?"

Why did the whole international community isolate South Africa and treat it as a nation of lepers until it abandoned apartheid? More directly, why is there no similar action to stop the outrages in Sudan? Why do European nations, which fought again and again over centuries for their own right to be Christians, intervene to save the Muslims but fear to save their fellow Christians?

Insight: Why do you believe they are afraid?

MMG: They're afraid because in their minds, in their fantasies and also in their ignorance, [they think] that if they go in to help the Sudan the Arab nations would say the Christians had interfered against, Arabs in an Islamic nation, which would not be true because the Sudan is a multiracial, multicultural and multireligious country.

Insight: Do you think that the West has any other competing interest preventing it from active opposition to genocide in Sudan?

MMG: One should not ask about "interests" under such circumstances. No man is an island; the human rights of all are interdependent. Many people would say that it is in the interest of the United States to oppose slavery and be true to its commitments to human rights in the Sudan and everywhere else.

Islamic fundamentalism is advancing around the world, whether we like it or not, because the Western nations are not defending their own values. They are giving up without a fight; they are not moving a finger, not doing anything to resist.

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