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PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Sudan’s decision to expel Mercy Corps and 12 other humanitarian organizations from the war-torn nation risks millions of lives, says Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive of the Portland-based humanitarian agency.
About 2.5 million Sudanese have been living on international aid channeled largely through relief organizations and the United Nations.
They are no longer able to farm or work, and the exodus of aid agencies will leave many without food, potable water and health care, Keny-Guyer says.
“People will start to move, likely toward Chad and toward the southern part of Sudan,” Keny-Guyer says. “That’s likely to increase instability.”
The expulsion orders followed the International Criminal Court’s announcement Wednesday (March 4) that it was charging Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir with war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region. Al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum alleged that aid agencies passed evidence to the court.
The expelled organizations are Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders’ Dutch and French chapters, Save the Children’s U.S. and British branches, Oxfam Britain, Solidarites, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, CHF International, Action Against Hunger, Care International and Padco.
The Associated Press reported Friday that the U.N. human rights office will examine whether Sudan’s decision to expel the groups constitutes a breach of basic human rights and possibly a war crime.
Sudanese media reported last week that seven more agencies would be kicked out.
So far another large Northwest-based aid agency, World Vision, has not been targeted. The Christian organization, based in Federal Way, Wash., helps about 500,000 people in Sudan.
“That’s just a small number compared to the need,” says Rachel Wolff, a World Vision spokeswoman.
Close ties between al-Bashir and the head of one Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, based in North Carolina, have prompted speculation that Sudan’s president may favor faith-based agencies.
Franklin Graham, who also heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has caused controversy by arguing al-Bashir should be allowed to stay in office to further the peace process. Graham met with the president Wednesday in Khartoum before the court issued its warrant.
But Bas Vanderzalm, president of Medical Teams International, a Christian global health organization based in Tigard, says he sees no connection between Khartoum’s decisions and agencies’ religious orientation.
“We don’t see that as part of any pattern there,” says Vanderzalm, whose organization aids Sudan through an alliance of six U.S. faith-based relief agencies.
Mercy Corps is a secular organization occasionally mistaken for a faith-based agency because of its name and its founders’ Christian orientation. Now that Khartoum has blacklisted the Portland agency, security forces are taking over its Sudan offices.
“We’re evaluating what kind of positive pressure we can bring to bear with the Sudanese government,” Keny-Guyer says.
By Richard Read
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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