Presiding Bishop's letter to Bush about the crisis in Sudan

June 24, 2004

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The ever-escalating humanitarian disaster in the Darfur region of Western Sudan causes me to again write to you about a situation that I now feel we must term genocide.

Your statement of April 8 strongly condemned the atrocities of Darfur and called them a "new chapter of tragedy in Sudan's troubled history." That tragedy takes on even deeper dimensions now, as a peace agreement in Sudan's 21-year civil war appears imminent. We are grateful for the strong leadership your administration provided in brokering that peace agreement. I want to share with you the Episcopal Church's position on Darfur and urge that you pursue a comprehensive strategy to end what many properly have called genocide.

Meeting earlier this month in Burlington, Vermont, our Church's Executive Council passed a resolution strongly condemning "the Sudanese government's systematic support of militias that have carried out massive killings, rape, burning of villages, and inhuman acts of horror against the civilians of Darfur" and expressing "grave sorrow at the Government of Sudan's use of starvation as a method of ethnic cleansing, and in particular, its destruction of food and water sources and its deliberate and systematic blocking of humanitarian assistance and international aid to the people of Darfur." The full resolution is attached.

Our Executive Council called upon the United States to exercise leadership in the international community to provide an immediate humanitarian surge in the delivery of relief assistance to the people of Darfur and to underscore to the Government of Sudan that failure to end the atrocities and allow immediate delivery of relief assistance will be met by swift and immediate action from the international community. In particular, we believe the U.S. must exercise leadership within the United Nations Security Council to pass a Darfur-specific resolution that both responds to the current situation and lays the groundwork for a sustainable peace. Among the areas our foreign policy should explore is the determination of possible indictments for war crimes.

The need for such a response could not be more urgent, as the rainy season has set upon Darfur and widespread famine appears on the horizon. Moreover, new reports surfaced this week that polio is spreading within the Darfur region in epidemic proportions. Indeed, as the International Crisis Group has noted, "every day we continue to look past this terrible record of death and destruction, we ensure that it will continue and intensify."

While great evils already have come to pass in Darfur, we possess the knowledge, foresight, and means to prevent the tragedy from reaching the proportions of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Just as U.S. leadership was critical in bringing an end to the slaughter in Bosnia and apartheid in South Africa, we must again rise to history's challenge and commit ourselves fully to ending the horror of Darfur.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your reply. My prayers are with you continually as you face the challenges of public service.

Yours sincerely,

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

The following is a copy of the Resolution on Sudan adopted by the Executive Council at its meeting on June 10-14, 2004 in Burlington, Vermont:

Resolved that the Executive Council, meeting in Burlington, VT, June 11-14, 2004, calls upon the United States government to exercise international leadership in addressing the profound humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

Resolved that the Council shares the deep concern of international-relief groups, religious leaders, and the United States Congress over the Sudanese government's systematic support of militias that have carried out massive killings, rape, burning of villages, and inhuman acts of horror against the civilians of Darfur, both before and after the ceasefire agreement of April 8, 2004.

Resolved that the Council expresses grave sorrow at the Government of Sudan's use of starvation as a method of ethnic cleansing, and in particular, its destruction of food and water sources and its deliberate and systematic blocking of humanitarian assistance and international aid to the people of Darfur.

Resolved that the Council calls for right-of-return for the more than one million refugees who have been displaced from Darfur, as well as the two million others displaced as a result of 20 years of civil conflict in the Sudan.

Resolved that the Council calls upon the President of the United States to heed the Congress' call to: (1) Direct the US representative to the United Nations to seek an official investigation by the UN to determine if crimes against humanity have been committed by the Government of Sudan in the Darfur region; and (2) Pressure the Government of Sudan to provide unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur.

Resolved that the Council further calls upon the United States to seek passage of a resolution by the UN Security Council that: (1) Condemns the Government of Sudan for its violation of human rights in Darfur; (2) Demands that the Sudanese government immediately cease its involvement in the atrocities; (3) Calls upon all sides to respect the ceasefire agreement of April 8; (4) Insists that the Government of Sudan allow the safe return of displaced persons to their places of origin and the provision of unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur; and (5) Underscores that the mandate to the Government of Sudan is unambiguous and unconditional, and that the international community is prepared to take swift and immediate action to enforce it.

Resolved that the Council expresses sorrow that the atrocities in Darfur have come at a time when many were hopeful that peace was becoming a possibility after 20 years of civil conflict in the Sudan, and calls upon all parties to rededicate themselves to the promise of peace without allowing the crisis in Darfur to be ignored as a consequence of peace negotiations.

Resolved the Council joins the international community in mourning the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, and calls upon leaders of our nation and the world to take all steps necessary to ensure that the tragic events of Rwanda are never repeated, either in Darfur or anywhere in the world.

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