e-mail us

Cover story

No time for prudence

NCR Staff

Bishop Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid, Sudan, has a homepage at www.petersvoice.org where he lists the latest incursions and assaults by Sudan’s government, the National Islamic Front. If the Khartoum-based government gives him plenty of outrages to protest against, Gassis doesn’t always make it easy on those international organizations and governments whose support he seeks.

“They like prudence,” said Gassis, “and I don’t believe in prudence anymore.”

The National Islamic Front doesn’t like that. Nor does it appreciate the fact that Gassis regularly updates the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva on atrocities committed by the government of Sudan. The government also won’t like the documentary, “The Hidden Gift: War and Faith in Sudan,” filmed by Windhover Forum during visits to the Nuba Mountains in 1998-99. The film shows Gassis at work there and adds publicity power to his pleas.

During Gassis’ February 2000 visit to the United States, he expressed dismay that the U.S. bishops were not doing more to pressure the Clinton administration on behalf of the persecuted Sudanese. Since then the U.S. conference has picked up the pace. Statements have been issued by Boston Cardinal Bernard Law in March and by conference chairman Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph Fiorenza in September. Conference officials also plan to meet with the Clinton administration and, after November, with the incoming U.S. administration.

Fr. Michael Perry, the bishops’ Africa Desk staffer, just returned from a meeting in Rome with Sudan’s bishops. He said a U.S. bishops’ delegation hopes to visit Sudan in March. The Sudanese bishops were in Rome for the canonization of Sudanese saint Giuseppina Bakhita (the office Gassis maintains in Nairobi, Kenya, is known as Bakhita House).

During the Oct. 1 canonization ceremony, Pope John Paul II pleaded with the international community to not ignore “this immense human tragedy” in Sudan.

National Catholic Reporter, November 17, 2000