Methodists Open Mission Center in Darfur, Sudan

The United Methodist Committee on Relief opened new doors to mission and servitude in the poverty-stricken Darfur region of Sudan. The new mission center, which launched early February, will provide emergency aid and development services in water, sanitation, and agriculture.

According to the United Methodist News Service, a staff of three has been hired to oversee the operation. The staff members are: Sashi Chanda, formerly with Save the Children in Angola, who has degrees in theology and rural development; Michael Tredway, a United Methodist layperson and retired military officer from Raeford, N.C., who has extensive experience in humanitarian aid and security issues; and Frederick Opuni-Mensah, a liaison for UMCOR in Washington since 2004, and formerly with the American Red Cross and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

In addition to the direct relief and rehabilitation center, UMCOR will also continue working with other humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to Sudanese refugees fleeing from the embattled Darfur region to neighboring Chad.

Last year, the world was shocked to find that some 70,000 died as part of a brutal ethnic cleansing process against the native black Sudanese population. And while the borders have opened to relief agencies, government efforts have been slow; two million refugees remain displace both internally and outside Sudanese borders.

In light of such alarming facts, the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, gave the UMCOR a mandate to provide assistance and work for peace in Sudan.

Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, of which the UMCOR is a part, said he is pleased now the agency can provide direct assistance:

"Working out the details of this new venture has been slow and complex. The success of our efforts is testimony to the diligence of UMCOR in all that it does in relief and rehabilitation,” he said.

The UMCOR will now work to restore farmland and provide seeds, tools and technical training in South Darfur, where only a few agencies are working. Emergency supplies, such as soap, buckets, cooking utensils and plastic sheeting, will also be supplied to people in refugee camps, according to UMNS.

Earlier this year, a separate humanitarian crisis in Sudan came to a halt as the northern Khartoum and the southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement signed an historic peace accord to end their 21-year war. Although the treaty does not directly affect the crisis in Darfur, Christian missionaries and political observers hope it will act as a blueprint that can lead to ultimate peace in all Sudan.

Donations to the mission in Sudan can be earmarked for UMCOR Advance No. 84385, "Sudan Emergency," and dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. To donate using a credit card, contributors may call toll free, (800) 554-8583