- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

Twenty-four liberal and conservative evangelical leaders representing at least 50 million Americans called on President Bush yesterday to “stop the genocide” in Darfur, saying he is the only world leader in a position to do so.

In a conference call, five of them promised to put the immense resources of the country’s evangelical Christian populace at the president’s disposal on behalf of the beleaguered inhabitants of western Sudan.

“Unless the president acts to rally world leadership to put pressure on the government of Khartoum to stop this genocide, it will not stop,” said Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

“We must not allow this genocide to continue,” said Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance. “We must say, ‘Not on our watch.’ ”

Evangelicals, Mr. Land added, can “strengthen the president’s hand” in taking what could be an unpopular step domestically in a nation already committed militarily around the world.

“We’ll do everything we can to rally support in Congress and the United Nations … to defy the genocidal government of Khartoum,” he said. To date, he added, “there has been a lack of sufficient demand by American people that something be done. But it has been my observation that when Washington feels the heat, they see the light.”

“Darfur should be on the front pages until this is resolved,” said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine and a founder of the Call to Renewal network. “But it falls off the front page again and again. We cannot resolve this until we stop [merely] talking about it.”

Mr. Wallis’ group, which represents the evangelical left, has teamed up with 23 mostly conservative evangelical groups or leaders in placing radio and newspaper ads urging Mr. Bush to push for a multinational force in western Sudan. Several of the leaders are seeking to meet personally with the president — a fellow evangelical — to discuss the issue.

“We’re the growth factor in American religion,” said Mr. Land, citing figures showing that evangelicals constitute as much as 40 percent of America’s 300 million residents. “There are a lot more of us than there used to be.”

The leaders said they felt constrained to speak out in a society in which they have emerged as the new center.

“Evangelicals and conservative Catholics are the moral voice of gravity in America,” said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. “To the extent we represent our constituency is the extent to which the rest of society follows.”

Plus, “When evangelicals speak, governments listen,” said Mr. Cizik, who has been involved in recent years in dialogue with moderate Muslim heads of state.

“Arab leaders are interested in what evangelicals think,” he said. “The president has to use his bully pulpit on this issue. If we fail as evangelicals, people die.”

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