WCC says global community has a responsibility to protect in Darfur

By staff writers
3 Oct 2007

There is an "international responsibility to protect people at risk in the Darfur region of Sudan and in neighbouring Chad," affirmed the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee at its recent meeting, calling upon WCC member churches to bring that responsibility "to the attention of their governments".

The comment comes alongside allegations in the media today (03 October 2007) that Darfuri asylum seekers refused by Britain may have been tortured upon return.

In a "Minute on Darfur" approved at its 25-28 September 2007 meeting in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, "where [a] genocide [that happened] nearly a century ago still casts a deep shadow," the WCC governing body encouraged the Council’s member churches to "provide humanitarian aid to Darfur through Action by Churches Together (ACT) International and to hold its people in their prayers".

According to the United Nations, in Sudan’s Darfur region, more than 200,000 people have been killed, more than 2.5 million driven from their homes to live in camps, and more than 4 million directly affected by the conflict. The violence has spread across the border into neighbouring Chad.

Since July 2004, ACT International and Caritas Internationalis have put in place a joint Darfur Emergency Response Operation. This initiative has channelled resources from some 60 Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox organisations and their back-donors from around the world into one of the largest humanitarian programs in South and West Darfur, delivering essential services over a long period to several hundred thousand people.

The WCC executive committee based its recommendation to the Council’s member churches on an emerging international norm affirmed by the WCC 9th Assembly in February 2006. Known as "responsibility to protect," the norm sets a new standard of protection for civilians when a state cannot or will not protect them.

It defines state sovereignty in terms of duties and obligations for the well being of civilians rather than as an absolute power, and does not exclude - but limits - the use of force in protective interventions for humanitarian purposes.

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