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Baptists Sporadically Issue Condemnations of Genocide

Although some Baptist groups regularly pass resolutions on various topics of concern, references to genocides only occasionally gain attention.

Baptists view resolutions as nonbinding, but they offer key insights into what Baptist leaders find important.

American Baptist Churches, USA (ABC) policy statements and resolutions are passed by the ABC’s General Board. References to genocide have primarily come in generic or historic cases.

An American Baptist policy statement on Africa that was adopted in 1982 included a reference to the problem of genocide.

“The suffering of Africa’s millions is exacerbated by the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, globalization, widespread military conflict, genocide, war-induced famine and hunger, and the resurfacing of the centuries old problem of slavery,” the statement said. “Power politics, strategic considerations and economic profit and advantage serve, for the most part, as the determining factors in relations between the essentially industrialized nations of the East and the West and the mainly non-industrialized states of Africa.”

A 1992 American Baptist resolution noted that indigenous people in the Americas were “subjected to genocide, slavery and exploitation.”

Thus, American Baptists were urged to consider the historic plight of indigenous people during that year that brought celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas.

The most substantial word from American Baptists on genocide came in a 2000 resolution on Rwanda.

The resolution, which came six years after the genocide, briefly recounted facts about the genocide in Rwanda and the biblical case against killing.

“[W]e deeply mourn the loss of the life and suffering resulting from the genocide in 1994, and that we express our grief to the people of Rwanda,” the resolution added. “[W]e condemn those attitudes, policies, actions which preceded, supported and resulted in death and suffering of the people in the genocide.”

American Baptists also pledged in the resolution to “continue to pray for reconciliation, justice and peace” and to “support all the good efforts by the government, churches and people of Rwanda to bring stability and movement toward reconciliation among all ethnic groups.”

Like American Baptists, Southern Baptists have also included some references to genocide in resolutions.

The resolutions primarily focused on situations in the Balkans and Sudan. Southern Baptist resolutions are passed by messengers at annual conventions.

A 1993 resolution said that “so-called ‘ethnic cleansing’ continues to plague the world, as demonstrated by the recent atrocities in the Balkans.”

The resolution urged Baptists to continue “denouncing in strongest terms every expression of racial and ethnic prejudice, discrimination and hatred.”

It also called “our President and other leaders of the international community to work to end genocide wherever found.”

In a 1999 resolution on “halting genocide and ethnic cleansing,” Southern Baptist messengers expressed their “abhorrence of those governments and militant groups which support and commit such malicious violence.”

The resolution urged U.S. and U.N. leaders “to take immediate action to bring an end to those regimes which are guilty of crimes against humanity and to bring to justice those persons who are responsible for these heinous acts.”

The resolution also encouraged prayers for victims and support for refugees.

Three resolutions – in 2000, 2001 and 2006 – condemned genocide in Sudan, particularly noting the targeting of Christians.

The 2001 resolution declared it is “the duty of all Christians to come to the aid of the persecuted church.”

The 2001 resolution on Sudan also said Southern Baptists “commend President Bush for his strong public stand against persecution and genocide in Sudan and for his appointment of senior officials who are committed to ending religious persecution.”

Bush, however, did not actually label the atrocities in Sudan “genocide” until three years later.

Even as Southern Baptists condemned genocide in Sudan, GuideStone Financial Resources remained heavily invested in companies doing business in the nation.

Activists attempting to stop the genocide encouraged divestment from companies doing business in Sudan.

Other SBC resolutions condemned the Holocaust or used the term “holocaust” instead of “genocide” to condemn mass killings.

For instance, a 1978 resolution noted atrocities in Uganda, Cambodia and South Africa.

The resolution insisted, “We dare not sit idly by during modern purges that parallel Hitler’s holocaust.”

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) list of resolution topics includes several timely ones regarding instances of genocide and mass killings.

BWA resolutions are passed by the General Council, which includes individuals from member bodies around the world.

They passed resolutions on Bosnia and the Balkans in 1993 and 1999, Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, and Sudan in 2006.

When Baptists have addressed the topic of genocide in official statements and resolutions, the tone has been one of strong condemnation of killing and consistent affirmation of the value of all lives. However, Baptists seem to only sporadically raise their voices against genocide.

Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianKaylor.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth article in a series focused on genocide. Part seven, looking at genocide in the Nuba region of Sudan, will appear tomorrow.

Previous articles in the series are:

Genocide Is Worse Than War

Genocide Awareness is Needed In April, Year-Round

Godfrey Uzoigwe Video Interview

Defining Genocide: No Loopholes for ‘Odious Scourge’

When Genocide First Entered Our Vocabulary