The New York Times today published two editorials, both by notable Christian leaders and both concerned with the imminent arrest of Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The first, by Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, criticizes African leaders for their unwillingness to denounce Bashir. Instead, they have petitioned the United Nations Security Council to have the proceedings of the International Criminal Court suspended. “[R]ather than stand by those who have suffered in Darfur, African leaders have so far rallied behind the man responsible for turning that corner of Africa into a graveyard.” Desmond Tutu clearly favors bringing Bashir to justice and sees peace as dependent on justice. “There is no peace precisely because there has been no justice,” he writes.
The second piece is by the president and chief executive of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Franklin Graham. Graham argues that peace must take precedence over justice. He tells of meeting with Bashir and winning concessions that have saved lives and resulted in improved conditions in southern Sudan and Darfur. Graham fears that if Bashir is brought to justice, then someone worse will take his place and the situation in Sudan and Darfur will deteriorate even more.
In this instance I have to agree with Desmond Tutu. It’s hard to imagine things getting really worse in southern Sudan and Darfur, and any head of state who comes after Bashir is bound to take into consideration the fate of his predecessor before pursuing policies that would be even more detestable to the watching world. Moreover, it appears that justice is what the victims themselves want. For more, see Nicholas D. Kristof’s blogs about Sudan and Darfur.