- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

The clergy of Midland, Texas, today will rally against slavery in Sudan, and a "Rock the Desert" Christian music festival in town takes up the cause tomorrow.
They are part of the growing grass-roots movement focused on Sudan as one of the world's worst violators of human and religious rights.
"There's been a heightened concern. Not many of us knew what was going on," said the Rev. Roy Smith, who is a member of the Midland Black Pastor's Alliance.
Today's clergy-association luncheon in the West Texas town that President Bush calls home hopes to draw attention to the Nov. 4 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, for which Midland is this year's host city.
Tomorrow, the annual "Rock the Desert" festival, which draws as many as 40,000 Christian youth, will make Sudan a center of attention. Musician Ken Tamplin, who produced the "Make Me Your Voice" recording for the Sudan cause, holds top billing.
"Concern about Sudan ranges from churches to rock stars," said Jesse Sage of the Anti-Slavery Group in Boston, which inaugurated its advocacy Web site, www.iAbolish.com, in April at a rock festival in Palm Springs, Calif.
Mr. Sage said the group now has 20,000 activists, many of them students, who will respond to mail campaigns to Congress or to campus marches.
For example, Harvard University junior Jay Williams last month returned from his second trip to Sudan. On that trip, assisted by Christian Solidarity International, he helped purchase freedom for 6,706 slaves at a desert marketplace.
"Several colleges in Boston have formed anti-slavery groups," said Mr. Williams, who took the trip with three Boston clergymen. "There's been articles in all the school newspapers." His work is featured in the current issue of Teen People.
The slave trade in Sudan has flourished during a 17-year civil war between the Muslim north and Christian and animist south that has produced 2 million deaths and 5 million displaced persons.
The Rev. Ray Hammond, who went to Sudan from Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass., said it was "sweet irony" for a descendant of slaves like himself to help slaves in modern Africa.
"Beyond the task of emancipation is the challenge to bring peace and development to southern Sudan," he said.
Since April, protesters have demonstrated outside the Sudanese Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest and provoked their arrests. On one day, more than 100 students from the Sidwell Friends school in Northwest demonstrated.
The movement also hopes to score some success on Capitol Hill, with a provision from Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican, that bars foreign investors from using U.S. loans for oil investment in Sudan.
"The House passed the Sudan Peace Act with the Bachus amendment, but now that's in danger in the Senate," said Faith McDonnell, coordinator of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan. "Really, our mobilization now is to persuade senators to keep the amendment."
To highlight the cause further, the Institute on Religion and Democracy here gives its Oct. 1 annual religious-freedom award to Bishop Bullen Dolli of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.
On the Nov. 4 prayer day, Midland churches will feature 24 speakers from countries where religious persecution is widespread.
"Starting today, we hope to educate people about what's happening in Sudan, and the world," said Deborah Fikes, a Texas housewife who is helping organize the Midland activities.


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