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Delegation Exposes Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Western Sahara

To: National Desk


Contact: Dane Rose, 202-546-8329 ext. 106; Rev. Rob Schenck, 703-447-7686 cell, both of the National Clergy Council


WASHINGTON, June 26 /Christian Newswire/ -- “We have a monster, an enemy in front of us.” – Ali El Jaouhar, ex-POW held captive by the POLISARIO Front for 23 years after a cease-fire was called.


The last of three luncheons with a delegation from Morocco occurred on Friday at The Columbus Hotel in Columbus, OH. An unusual exchange of communication between American Evangelicals and Moroccan Muslims has grown over the past two years, resulting in an unprecedented connection and understanding between the leaders of the two groups. This recent visit of a Moroccan delegation to the U.S. is a result of the ensuing friendship. 


Hosted by the Evangelical organizations National Clergy Council and Christian Friendship Mission, the delegation last week traveled to Lancaster, PA, Pontiac, MI, and Columbus, OH, during the past week. The complementary luncheon events featured the Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK), president of the National Clergy Council and an Evangelical minister, the Honorable Edward Gabriel, former US ambassador to Morocco and several victims of human rights abuses who were held in POLISARIO camps.


Attendees at the luncheons included a broad spectrum of leaders from the Evangelical community as well as representatives from Roman Catholic and mainline denominations.


The delegation continues to expose the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Western Sahara. Sadaani Ma Oulainie, a former child prisoner held hostage in Cuba for over a decade, and Ali El Jaouhar, an ex-POW detained for 23 years after the United Nations decreed a ceasefire between the warring countries of Morocco and Algeria, described their tortuous personal histories consisting of public beatings, humiliation, re-education, and the extended separation of families. Presently, thirty-year-old camps run by the Cuban-backed POLISARIO Front exist in southern Algeria where thousands of indigenous Sahrawi people of Western Sahara are sequestered and treated inhumanely, “worth less than donkeys”, says El Jaouhar.


The focus of these luncheons rests on the Christian community, requesting its help through prayer and by helping to further educate the public about the crisis. Church leaders, members and institutions are being asked to appeal to local members of Congress and specifically the US Ambassador for Religious Liberty, John Hanford, to investigate the charges against the POLISARIO Front and to broker a settlement that will allow detainees to leave the camps.  Saadani plead with those in attendance, “I am asking that you scream for us.”


Columbus, Ohio, National Clergy Council representative the Reverend Dr. Samuel Farina, pastor of the large Christian Assembly on Karl Road and founder of numerous community outreach initiatives, closed with prayer and encouragement on Friday afternoon, “It is the cry of every human being to be free. As the people of God we can do something.”


Prior to this visit, a Moroccan delegation traveled to Trenton, NJ, and to Sarasota and Jacksonville, FL in March 2006. Additional visits are scheduled for August and December 2006 with plans to tour Texas and California respectively.