NCC General Secretary Arrested for Civil Disobedience

The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA was arrested “in an act of civil disobedience and protest” at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 14, 2004. Dr. Bob Edgar was among some 50 participants who lead a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy to call attention to the genocide unfolding in Dafur, Sudan.

The noon-protest was part of a campaign, coordinated by Christian Solidarity International, which included daily demonstrations in front of the Sudanese Embassy since June 30. The campaign calls for the Congress to pass House Concurrent Resolution 467, which declares genocide in Dafur, Sudan, and calls on the Bush Administration to take immediate action.

"Getting arrested for this cause is the very least one could do to bring attention to the urgency of this situation,” said Dr. Edgar, following his release the same day. “The solution rests at the door of the government of Sudan -- and also at the feet of the international community. We must face the fact that time grows dangerously short for action. As our governments hesitate to do what is right, the loss of precious lives accelerates with each passing week."

"It is clear that a genocide is unfolding in Sudan," Dr. Edgar continued. "In April 2004, as the world commemorated the tragic Rwandan genocide of 1994, we all said we would never allow this to happen again. Yet we are faced today with another horror that is clearly preventable. The National Council of Churches joins with people of goodwill throughout the world who want to end the needless deaths of countless innocent Sudanese citizens.”

The situation in Sudan has received widespread concern from humanitarian agencies, Christian groups and political leaders worldwide. In early July, the secretary of state Colin Powell and UN General Secretary Kofi Annan visited the region, only to find thousands of “missing” refugees. Groups such as Church World Service and World Relief have launched vigorous campaigns to provide medical, physical and spiritual support to the millions afflicted in Sudan.

While official figures are unknown, the UN estimates that tens of thousands have died from the unrest and more than one million have been “displaced in an apparent attempt at ethnic cleansing.”

Dr. Carole Burnett, a professor at Baltimore’s Ecumenical Institute of Theology, who also presented herself for arrest by the Secret Service that day, said, "No thinking and feeling person can be indifferent to the magnitude of the crisis in the Sudan."

Both Burnett and Edgar was taken to a local police station where they were fined, then released. According to the NCC, additional acts of disobedience are planned.