URI Global Council Endorses Darfur Unity Statement

April 11, 2005

My first press release =). Sent out Thursday/Friday/Saturday (depending on the news agency).

April 7, 2005. San Francisco, USA - The United Religions Initiative Global Council in March voted to endorse the Darfur Unity Statement in recognition of the continuing necessity for international intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan. Originally signed by over 100 non-governmental agencies in July of 2004, the Save Darfur Coalition's Unity Statement remains relevant today with over two million refugees in need of aid and death toll estimates in the region now exceeding 300,000 (the statement can be found at www.savedarfur.org).

Many statements of "never again" followed the terrible massacres in Rwanda eleven years ago today. Yet January's report from the UN International Inquiry on Darfur made clear that the conflict in western Sudan would soon become the next "never again." In spite of the international attention the region received last summer, the Commission was "particularly alarmed that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacements have continued during the course of the Commission's mandate."

Alarmed at the lack of resolution to this crisis, a small group of interfaith activists informally convened in March as the URI Darfur Action Group. Representing URI members from across the United States and from Brazil, Israel, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan and Chile, the group requested that the URI Global Council show its solidarity and desire for peace by endorsing the Unity Statement. "Even in this late day we are not powerless to act, to help a desperate people avoid further atrocities and the suffering of refugee life," said one of the group's conveners, Stephen Fuqua. "Though the URI Global Council cannot make policy pronouncements on behalf of URI members, it can speak for itself." Reporting on the Council's agreement to support the Unity Statement, URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs said "the Standing Committee enthusiastically supports having URI be added as a signatory to the Unity Statement. A key factor leading to the committee's support was that the request came from our grassroots representatives and members who had been seriously considering this issue."

In March the URI Darfur Action Group additionally sent a letter to interfaith leaders throughout the United States requesting their support for a campaign to encourage passage of the Darfur Accountability Act in the US Senate. Recent Security Council Resolutions have finally begun to make inroads toward punishing perpetrators of crimes against humanity and sanctioning individuals and the government of Sudan. They have also approved a much-needed peacekeeping force for southern Sudan, whose future stability is intertwined with the conflict in the west. The Accountability Act would provide additional American aid in the region and work to secure additional African Union and UN peacekeeping troops specifically for Darfur.

About the United Religions Initiative

The United Religions Initiative works to end religiously motivated violence and build cultures of peace, justice and healing. Active in more than fifty countries, URI's work is accomplished by a powerful network of more than 240 Cooperation Circles. Each year URI activities involve hundreds of thousands of peacebuilders worldwide. To find out more about URI, visit www.uri.org.

Further background information on the atrocities in Sudan as well as the Darfur Accountability Act campaign can be found at www.interfaithnews.net/darfur.