NOT ON OUR WATCH: Holston joins movement to stop horror in Sudan

NOT ON OUR WATCH: Holston joins movement to stop horror in Sudan

Holston Conference is joining a Christian movement to stop the genocide in Darfur, by promoting a new Bible study and bringing one of the study's authors to speak in Kingsport, Tenn.

"Not on Our Watch Christian Companion: Biblical Reflections on the Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond" is an eight-week study, developed to accompany a best-selling book on the crisis in Darfur. The books are part of a global movement that involves a petition, million-person prayer, and other activities to help the Christian community mobilize against atrocities in Sudan.

The United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society is a sponsor, and Holston's own Sudan Action Team is urging churches, groups, and individuals to participate in the Bible study this fall.

Holston's participation helps fulfill the advocacy promise made through the conference's covenant with the East Africa Conference, according to Danny Howe, chair of Holston's Missions Team.

"But also, it's a mandate from God that we as a church become involved in these people's lives," said Howe. "This Bible study connects the Christian community with the tools to make a change in government policy. The scripture basis is straight forward."

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, all Holston members are invited to hear one of the Bible study's co-authors, Bill Mefford, speak at First Broad Street United Methodist Church of Kingsport, Tenn.

Bill Mefford is director of civil and human rights for the Board of Church and Society. He wrote the "Not on Our Watch Christian Companion" with Greg Leffel, president of One Horizon Foundation. The Bible study is a follow-up to the book, "Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond," written by human rights activist John Prendergast and Academy Award winning actor Don Cheadle.

Holston members who wish to hear Mefford speak at 6:15 on Sept. 24 should e-mail Howe by Sept. 17. Participants who want to join the congregation for dinner at 5:30 p.m. should call (423) 224-1502 to make reservations.

Holston members who cannot attend Mefford's presentation may visit on Sept. 25 for The Call's exclusive story, or e-mail now and request for the story to be e-mailed to you.

The "Not on Our Watch" books are available through Cokesbury Bookstores in Knoxville and Johnson City, as well as Cokesbury online. The books may also be ordered through the Darfur Christian Action site. The Bible study is most effective if the book by Cheadle and Prendergrast is read first, Howe said.

The Darfur Christian Action site also offers the following:

  • Sign up for weekly national "discussion groups" by toll-free conference call (beginning Sept. 10)
  • Sign a petition to President Bush
  • Download free bulletin insert

Co-authors Mefford and Leffel, who are receiving no payment for their work, told an Aug. 7 press briefing that they intended to create a resource that crossed all theological lines in the Christian community.

"We wanted to provide biblical reflections that enable people to think through how to respond to genocide," said Leffel. "We hope to raise awareness about why it's right to be involved in this issue in the first place and how to become organized. We tried to link Christian traditions to the wider movement against genocide."

Mefford said the authors wanted to stay away from abstract, theological detachment. "We tried to make it as personal as possible," he explained, citing stories of Darfur refugees and aid workers that are in the study guide. "The most powerful part of the 'Christian Companion' are the steps people will take to get engaged."

Each chapter of the 'Christian Companion' constitutes a weekly study designed to guide group discussion and reflection about Darfur and the movement to end genocide. Each session includes a biblical passage for reflection, a lesson applying the passage to Darfur, a weekly action step, and vignettes by refugees, activists and Christians who have awakened to the problem of genocide.

In addition to attending Mefford's presentation on Sept. 24, Holston members within driving distance are invited to join the First Broad Street congregation in its own eight-week "Not On Our Watch" Bible study, which begins Sept. 17. On Oct. 8 at First Broad Street, the public is invited to hear Cory Smith, advocacy director for the ENOUGH Project, which is co-sponsoring the "Not on Our Watch" project. E-mail Howe for more information.