Good Morning everybody. We often think that something horrible happening to somebody else, from another group, from another culture, from another religion, from another nation, we often think that it has nothing at all to do with us, but I assure you, as a student of history, as someone who studies world trends, what happens in one nation reverberates all over the world. That’s what Dr. King meant when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
And this morning I need to tell you about what’s happening in Sudan and why it matters so much. First, let me give you some history and context.
Sudan is huge. Geographically, in terms of square miles, it’s the 3rd largest nation in all of Africa. It’s about 5 times bigger than California geographically. And it’s old. It has been continuously populated and has had government representation for at least 5,000 years. It’s one of the oldest nations in the world. Some of the history of Sudan is beautiful, and rich, and complicated. I’m talking about ancient Kush, and Nubia, and Kerma. And early we throughout Sudan, I don’t mean during colonialism, but nearly 2,000 years ago we see Coptic Christianity evolve out of Sudan. But in the entire 5,000+ year history of Sudan, I think the single worst period in Sudanese history began in June of 1989 when military Colonel Omar al-Bashir took the government over in a military coup, then appointed himself President, suspended all other political parties, banned all independent newspapers, and began executing every leader, activist, and voice of opposition. It was downhill from there. For the past 30 straight years Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist.
And for most of us, our introduction to Sudan came in the early 2000s as we started learning about massive war crimes and human rights abuses taking place in the western region of the nation which we know as Darfur. In February of 2003, led by Omar al-Bashir, the government began one of the worst periods of ethnic cleansing in the modern history of the world. Armed forces murdered over 300,000 people and forced nearly 3 million Sudanese citizens into homelessness as refugees. And because of that, The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is in The Netherlands, indicted Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. The first warrant for his arrest was issued on March 4th, 2009 and then another on July 12th, 2010.
But the world at large ignored the indictments. And an open war criminal continued to rule Sudan after slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people.
And any time a revolution would creep up to overthrow al-Bashir, he’d squash it, and have the leaders arrested or murdered.
Until this year – when young people – particularly young women, all over the country rose up to demand a fair economy, to demand fair housing and education, and eventually to demand that Omar al-Bashir step down. The protests began in December of 2018, but this year they grew and grew and grew until hundreds of thousands of people joined in and really brought the entire nation to its knees. Then April 11th, the Sudanese military bowed to the will of the people and removed President Omar al-Bashir from office.
And it was a powerful moment, but I’ve seen that moment happen all over the world many times throughout history – and for every 100 times it happens, what happens next goes wrong 99 of them. The people rise up, they overthrow the government, and they were right to do so, but 99 times out of 100, the military then takes over, and refuses to allow free and fair elections, refuses to allow Democracy, refuses to allow civilian rule, and when the people rise up again, the military, and I’ve seen this over and over again, the military then begins doing to the people the same thing the previous dictator did to the people.
And that’s exactly what’s happening right now in Sudan. And tens of thousands of businesses shut down in protest. It was a beautiful thing. And hundreds of thousands of people stood with them. Banks shut down. Restaurants and businesses shut down. And it was one of the most beautiful acts of civil disobedience that I’ve seen in years. It was masterful. And it brought the entire nation to its knees.
But the military responded. We have to understand, that these military leaders were the very military leaders who did the bidding of Omar al-Bashir when he was indicted for war crimes – many of them are war criminals themselves. So on this past June 3rd, in the city of Khartoum – a massacre took place against the protestors.
At least 118 peaceful protestors were murdered, shot, bludgeoned. At least 100 different women were raped. Businesses were burned down and ransacked. And the military proved they were no different.
We are told that yesterday the protestors called off the strikes to continue to negotiating with the military and they are calling for at least 3 things:
- An immediate democratic government led by civilians and not the military. From top to bottom.
- An open international investigation into the new war crimes committed against protestors this year.
- An immediate return to Internet and cell service. The government has repeatedly cut both to end the ability of protestors to communicate with one another.
I support all of 3 of these.