Many in America have heard of the atrocities taking place in Sudan's Darfur region. Few, however, can say they know well about the ongoing crisis and even less have done something to stand against it.
In light of this, the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, the One Horizon Foundation along with the Enough Project are promoting a new study guide as part of an effort to share with Christians how to get involved in the movement to end genocide and the crimes against humanity in Dafur.
Cory Smith, the advocacy director for the Enough Project, says Not on Our Watch Christian Companion: Biblical Reflections to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond adds a desperately needed faith perspective on Darfur and the problems of genocide.
"The Companion both informs and connects Christians to the growing moment to end genocide and crimes against humanity," he said at a press conference in Washington ahead of the book's release.
In the last two months, fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels in the northern and central parts of the wartorn region have displaced some 40,000 civilians, according to a recent report by the United Nations.
And since ethnic African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated national government in early 2003, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur and up to 300,000 killed. Many of the worst atrocities in the war have been blamed on the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads allied with the government.
In Not on Our Watch Christian Companion, authors Gregory Leffel and Bill Mefford expand on the New York Times bestseller Not on Our Watch by actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) and Africa expert John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project.
Each chapter in the book – eight in all – constitutes a weekly study session designed to guide group discussion and reflection about Darfur and the movement to end genocide. Each session includes a biblical passage, a lesson applying the passage to Darfur, a weekly action step, and vignettes by refugees, activists and Christians who have awakened to the problem of genocide and become active in the Darfur movement.
"I think one of the unique things about the Christian Companion that we have tried very hard to make sure that we can write something that speaks to the entire Christian community because, as we know, Christians are not monolithic . There're a lot of variations, a lot of wrinkles within the body of Christ," said Bill Mefford of the UMC General Board of Church and Society during a press conference for the book.
According to Mefford, the book has received input from the Southern Baptist Convention 's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as well as endorsements from officials from the National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners, United Church of Christ, among others.
"We've tried to make it something that can speak to the entire Christian community but that is not so watered down that when it does speak that it, it doesn't speak powerfully and as a challenge and as something that provokes the Church to action," explained Mefford. "And I think, hope, pray that it's accomplished that because the entire purpose of this is for churches not only to be educated but to be educated to activate, to be engaged, to put together and join themselves as part of a movement to not only end the genocide in Darfur, but to be part of a movement that speaks boldly against human rights violations across the world."
Along with the book, The Darfur Christian Action website, www.darfurchristianaction.org, is providing vital tools and resources that can be used to build the Christian movement to end genocide in Darfur.
Currently, the Companion's authors, religious leaders, and policy experts are on an eight-week national conference call discussion series that started on Sept. 10. Each discussion is held Thursday evenings and prospective participants are invited to join the discussions by calling in toll-free. The last discussion will be held on Oct. 30.
Correction: Monday, October 27, 2008:
An article on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, about a new study guide on Darfur and the problems of genocide incorrectly reported that it was available for free. According to a corrected news release issued by The Enough Project, free copies of "Not on Our Watch Christian Companion: Biblical Reflections to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond" are only being offered to the media. The book is available for $7.50 on Amazon.com and Target.com.