While the Sudanese regime spends $1 million a day on the war, the Christians have nothing. Worse than that, we feel completely on our own Doesn’t the Church want us anymore?
By Erica Whate
August 5, 2007 Sudan (CBNNews) — A 13-year-old boy in southern Sudan is one of the few survivors of a brutal attack by an Islamic militia group from the north. The women of his village are raped and murdered, his sister in front of his eyes.
He is blindfolded and transported to a wealthy Muslim family in the north where he is purchased to be sexually mistreated, beaten and forced to work and convert to Islam. Three years later he is able to escape and tell his story.
Israel ‘s Dilemma
The voices of victims fleeing genocide are screaming at Israel ‘s door, and while the memory of the Jews’ horror of the Holocaust is still steaming, Israel is reluctant to answer the plea for help.
But who can blame them.
As a signatory to the International Convention on Refugees, Israel is obliged to accept refugees seeking assistance. Israel actually assisted in the creation of the agreement after thousands of Jewish refugees were turned away during the Holocaust. The world remembers the many ships that returned home where their passengers perished at the hands of the Nazis. And so does Israel .
Yet, today Israel is a life raft that can only support so many people. If too many jump aboard, the raft will sink. And with 25 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and 35 percent of its children, Israel is barely keeping afloat by itself.
With 6 million people in Darfur alone, Israel is anticipating a massive influx of refugees in the near future. When survivors like the 13-year-old Sudanese boy arrive on Israel ‘s Sinai border seeking asylum, Israel remembers the pain of its own past. But Israel too, is afraid.
Charmaine Hedding, Strategic Project developer of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), has set in motion the vision for a Christian response to this crisis.
As an active member of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus Women’s Council, Hedding has been working to bring awareness to issues of violence against women. In conjunction with this work, she is beginning to intervene for the cause of Sudanese refugees in Israel as well.
Hedding said that while some of the Sudanese in Israel are from Darfur, many are a mix of Christians and Muslims from southern Sudan who are fleeing Islamic terror or oppression.
From the U.N. we hear of a seven-year peace agreement in Sudan , but the Christian refugees fleeing to Israel tell a different story.
Muslim control in southern Sudan remains a problem. Withholding food or medical aid and selling Christians into slave trade are some of the tactics used to force non-Mulims to convert to Islam, Hedding said.
Though the hands of Israelis may be tied on this issue, the hands of the global Church, especially the Western Church , are not.
“While the Sudanese regime spends $1 million a day on the war, the Christians have nothing. Worse than that, we feel completely on our own Doesn’t the Church want us anymore?”Catholic priest in Bahr-el-Gazal , Sudan
After hearing this statement, Hedding realized she is the Church.
“They are our own brothers and sisters,” she said, “ it is an embarrassment to the Church that we are not taking care of them.”
While Hedding is particularly convicted to intervene on behalf of Christian “brothers and sisters our own family members,” the ICEJ offers assistance to Muslim and Christian refugees alike, as this is a humanitarian issue.
At present, Israel does not have the infrastructure to support the refugees and has been struggling to find appropriate care facilities. Kibbutzim (farming communities), rehabilitation centers, and ministries like the ICEJ are doing their best to assist the government, but even for the one to two thousand refugees in Israel today, it is not enough.
Hedding feels strongly that the next step is to involve churches from developed countries to assist with integration into their societies.
This is already being accomplished in some countries, including Australia , but not yet in the United States or Canada .
“It’s simply our responsibility as Christians. These are legitimate refugees with refugee status. We can do this,” Hedding challenged. “Though, it is not for the faint of heart.”
Here is an opportunity for hands and flesh, person-to-person contact and rescue. Who will answer the plea?
I hope it will be us — small church families, willing to be imposed upon for the sake of suffering brothers and sisters, our own family.