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American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. National Ministries has voted to divest its Common Investment Fund of corporations doing business in Sudan.

Friday’s unanimous vote by the finance committee of the board overseeing American Baptist mission and ministry work in the United States and Puerto Rico followed an alert from the congregation of Hyde Park Union Church in Chicago. It urged portfolio investigation “with dispatch” to identify investments in companies doing business with the government of Sudan, followed by divestiture of those companies.

The United States and some human rights groups have claimed that Sudan’s government and Arab militia known as the Janjaweed are guilty of genocide for their actions in the Darfur region, where about 200,000 people have died and an estimated 2 million displaced since fighting broke out in early 2003.

“The congregation of Hyde Park Union Church is extremely concerned about the current conflict in the Darfur region of the Sudan,” wrote the Rev. Susan Johnson, senior minister, and Elizabeth Beazley, of the Missions & Social Concerns committee, in a letter to National Ministries in May. “We feel that Christian organizations should be at the forefront of examining and condemning this genocide.”

Several states have passed laws to guarantee their pension funds are not invested in companies with business ties in Sudan. Many American universities have also divested.

Members of the Finance Committee of the Board of National Ministries approved divestiture “as soon as possible with due prudence to fiduciary responsibilities.”

“Along with being a vehicle for funding mission, National Ministries’ Common Investment Fund also has always been important as mission in itself through socially responsible investing,” said treasurer Margaret Ann Cowden in American Baptist News Service. “Finance Committee members were eager to use our funds to bear Christ’s witness against these atrocities that are such an affront to the common humanity that unites us all.”

American Baptists also allocated $150,000 from the “One Great Hour of Sharing” mission campaign to relieve suffering in the war-torn area of Darfur.

The funds come from the church’s annual “One Great Hour of Sharing” mission campaign.

The money, requested by American Baptist World Relief officer Lisa Rothenberger and approved by the World Relief Committee, goes toward an effort by world church agencies to raise $14 million to assist Darfur residents, many of whom are homeless and destitute after being displaced within their country.

The money will be funneled through the relief organizations Action by Christians Together and Caritas, which will relay it to Norwegian Church Aid, the main relief group working inside Darfur.

The relief effort brings Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox together to try to alleviate conditions in a country with a large Muslim population.

Rothenberger said the situation in Darfur is so critical that “right now it’s a matter of keeping people alive.”

In other business at last week’s meetings of the ABC/USA General Board in Valley Forge, Pa., National Ministries Associate Executive Director Marilyn Turner appealed to American Baptist to continue gifts to “One Great Hour of Sharing” for healing and recovery in the Gulf Coast region.

“We cannot forget about the devastation just because the media has gone home and the story is no longer front page news,” Turner said on Thursday. “The suffering continues and, as disciples of God’s abiding love, we American Baptists need to be in ministry for the long haul to those whose lives were ripped apart throughout Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.”

Turner said American Baptists’ contributions for recovery from the killer storm totaled $3.7 million. National Ministries has already committed $2 million to relief efforts, but the need for housing, reconstruction, counseling and healing are still overwhelming today, nine months later.

Also, National Ministries is partnering with the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in Chicago to host a series of Katrina National Justice Commissions that will hear and record hurricane survivors’ stories and investigate immediate response efforts by government and private agencies. A goal of the commissions is to develop resources churches can use when called to respond to disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.

At the first commission hearing in Washington, D.C., Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., commended the commissions as the first of their kind to reveal survivors’ suffering and develop long-term solutions to the problems still faced by the Gulf Coast region. Subsequent hearings will be held in New Orleans and Houston.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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