|National UCC staff members Mary Kuenning Gross (l.), Diane Dicken and Craig Hoffman paint a Tent of Hope during their lunch hour. W. Evan Golder photo.|
More than five years ago, in February 2003, two rebel groups in the Darfur region of Sudan launched an uprising against the government. Darfur, about the size of Texas, is in northeastern Africa and the people were frustrated by poverty and neglect.
Sudan's central government in Khartoum responded with a "scorched-earth campaign," according to the website genocideindarfur.org, killing not only rebel militias but also more than 200,000 innocent civilians. Another 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes, most living in tents in the desert.
"A small peacekeeping force run by the African Union is in place," adds the website, "but it is largely unsupported by the rest of the world."
Enter the churches and Tents of Hope.
Begun by Tim Nonn, a member of Petaluma (Calif.) UCC, Tents of Hope is supported by the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). One Great Hour of Sharing is one of the agencies Tents of Hope uses to contribute to Sudan relief.
Tents of Hope has taken hold in more than 100 U.S. communities. Coalitions of students, inter-faith groups, and retired persons, for example, have come together to buy tents for $500 each, paint them with symbols of hope and display them prominently before taking them to Washington, D.C., for a national event on the Mall in November.
In Bakersfield, Calif., First Congregational UCC held a day-long "Ode to Africa" educational fundraiser for humanitarian aid for Darfur. The event featured painting a tent, a "fair trade" bazaar, food, dancing, and a discussion of the book, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier."
In Waterloo, Ill., members of St. Paul UCC had letters to their Members of Congress available for signatures alongside their Tent of Hope display. They also served a refugee style meal of millet porridge and raised $1,700 for Darfur refugee humanitarian efforts.
At the UCC's Church House in downtown Cleveland, UCC staff members took part of their lunch hour to paint a Tent of Hope.
‘It was an act of solidarity with others who are displaced due to war and violence," says the Rev. Craig Hoffman of the UCC's Financial Development Ministry. "Painting helped us express our feelings through the beauty of art."
"These tents are important symbols," says Susan Sanders, who administers the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing offering. "They symbolize loss of their homes by millions of people in Darfur. But they also symbolize hope, connecting us with displaced persons in Darfur, and reminding us that we are all one human family and responsible for one another's safety and well being."
Go to globalministries.org, tentsofhope.org, savedarfur.org or standnow.org.
Contact: Derek Duncan, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115; phone: 216-736-3220; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Susan Sanders, 216-736-3210; email@example.com.