- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

Before Ken Tamplin left for a dinner to benefit persecuted Sudanese Christians, he told his wife they would go, write a check and be home in time to tuck their 5- and 7-year-olds into bed.

But he couldn't ignore the account he heard that night.

It was about a man named Apinapinakot, who came home from tending his cows in the fields and found his village in southern Sudan destroyed by government and Islamic jihad troops. His wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 11, were gone, sold into prostitution slavery.

The man sold all his possessions and six months later found his family in northern Sudan, only to be faced with a terrible dilemma. He only had enough money to buy back his wife and younger daughter. But the master wanted a higher price for his older daughter because she was soon to be circumcised and forcibly married.

Mr. Tamplin was haunted by the comment he made to his wife about being back in time to tuck their children into bed. Mr. Tamplin, a three-time Dove Award winner for his Christian songwriting, knew he had to do something.

"I saw the most reprehensible acts and virtual genocide," he said. "I didn't think that kind of carnage took place in the 21st century. I knew I couldn't just sit back in my comfortable lifestyle and do nothing."

Last month, he released a worship album, "Make Me Your Voice," in which all of the artists' and producer's royalties will benefit human-rights organizations involved in Sudanese relief efforts. The effort is explained on the Web site (www.makemeyourvoice.com).

Sudan's 17-year civil war has left 2 million people dead and 5 million displaced, due to Muslim Arabs in northern Sudan enforcing Islamic law primarily on black Christians and animists in the south. Non-Muslims face murder, rape or being sold into slavery by government-backed Islamic militia groups. A person can be bought in Sudan for anywhere from $15 to $80, relief organizations estimate.

A week after the fund-raiser, Mr. Tamplin contacted large churches and people he knew in the Christian music community about producing an album to benefit Sudanese in need.

Within two weeks, he had pledges of monetary support from the churches he contacted. Christian music artists donated their time and talent in writing songs for the album.

After three months, Mr. Tamplin had finished recording the album in his own studio and then approached Spring Hill Music Group to distribute the music to Christian bookstores and other retailers of Christian music.

The compact disc features a 15-song compilation from 15 popular Christian music names, including the Rev. Andrae Crouch and Charlie Peacock.

"I was amazed at the problems that were going on and that Christians had been persecuted so badly because of their faith," said Mr. Crouch, a gospel singer. "I right away told [Mr. Tamplin] that whatever he needed me to do, I would do it."

The album will benefit charities from the first unit sold because donations from large churches and businesses have defrayed most of the album's expenses. Since Mr. Tamplin and the recording artists are forgoing their royalties, about 33 percent of the selling price will benefit the Sudanese.

"This is about basic human rights. This isn't about Muslim versus Christian," Mr. Tamplin said. "I know we can't save the world, but we can do a lot to help people."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Samaritan's Purse and Safe Harbor are the relief organizations that will receive money from the album. These organizations run hospitals, distribute food and clothing, and in the case of CSW, buy freedom for people captured as slaves.

Mr. Tamplin hopes to raise at least half a million dollars from the album.

Recently, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and black congressional leaders spoke out against slavery in Sudan, calling for tough sanctions against the country.

Last week, the heads of relief groups in Sudan met with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who has visited Sudan four times, to discuss ways to bring religious persecution in Sudan into the U.S. limelight.

"Anything that's going to bring attention to the plight of the Sudanese is invaluable really," said Gary Kusunowki, president of Safe Harbor.

Mr. Tamplin learned the night of the fund-raiser that the Sudanese father was able to buy back his elder daughter with the financial support of CSW.

Unfortunately, the family's struggle is not an unusual one in Sudan, said Baroness Caroline Cox, Deputy Speaker for the British House of Lords and spokesman for CSW.

"It epitomizes what the horror and tragedy of what slavery is all about in Sudan today," she said.

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