Story and photos
by Daniel R. Gangler
INDIANAPOLIS - In the quiet of his State House office, Governor Mitch Daniels signed the Sudan Divestment bill into law the afternoon of May 3, bringing an end to a four-month quest of hundreds of Hoosiers led by Beth Reilly, a member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, the Rev. Darren Cushman Wood of Speedway and a handful of interfaith leaders to help end the witnessed genocide in Darfur, a region of Sudan under siege by the current government based in Khartoum. A public signing of the bill will come probably later this month after Daniels trip to Europe, according to his staff.
Reilly said both Chambers of the Indiana General Assembly considered the final conference report for the bill on April 26. After the Senate unanimously voted in favor the bill, the House came back into session and also debated the bill.
Rep. Cindy Noe of Indianapolis, one of the bill's sponsors, reminded lawmakers, "the situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate and Indiana can send a strong message to Sudan by divesting from targeted companies supplying money to the government."
The House again gave unanimous support for divestment.
Overwhelming support for the Sudan Divestment legislation was gained on Sunday, April 15 when a diverse crowd of more than 800 young to senior activists jammed into the north atrium of the State House in a two-hour Darfur Rally in support of the divestment legislation and of Indiana's 200 plus Darfurian living in the Fort Wayne area.
The Indiana Save Darfur Coalition, including many United Methodist advocates, called for the State of Indiana to pull roughly $40 million in state pension money out of investments in foreign companies doing business with the Sudanese government which continues to reject political solutions to the crisis in Darfur.
News media reported recently that the International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrants May 2 in the Darfur conflict, seeking to try a government minister and a janjaweed militia leader on charges of mass slayings, rape and torture. Sudan immediately refused to arrest them.
Mastora Bakhiet was one of about two dozen Darfurians who made the trip April 15 from their adopted home of Fort Wayne. She addressed the crowd "on behalf of the women of Darfur" who have lost family, friends and property, and who are frequently subjected to rape as a tool of war.
"We demand that the Indiana government not help the genocide go on," she said. "Support the victims of Darfur and stop supporting the criminals."
As part of the rally, more than 700 Hoosiers signed petitions asking legislators to support the divestment bill. The signed petitions were hand delivered to legislators in both chambers the next day.
Handmade poster at the State House proclaimed "Stop the Genocide" and several participants wore T-shirts saying "Save Darfur" and "Time is Running Out," the event's theme. (See Forth Wayne youth support Darfur at State House rally for another story.)
Addressing the crowd, Noe spoke out against the injustices of the Sudanese government against its own citizens saying enough is enough and that Hoosiers will not tolerate this genocide in Darfur or anywhere.
The United Nations estimates at least 200,000 people have been killed since the crisis in Darfur began in 2003. About two million others have been displaced from their homes.
In relationship to both Indiana North and Indiana South Annual Conferences meeting the end of May and early June, Reilly and Cushman Wood hope to introduce a resolution asking the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to consult with the Sudan Divestment Task Force based in Washington, D.C. and to begin divestment from a limited number of companies which the Task Force has named worst offenders.