A Slave for Christ

  Most people don't spend Christmas day wading through chest-deep floodwater -- and then baptizing 500 people. But that's exactly what Bishop Macram Max Gassis did in Sudan a few weeks ago. It was an expression of his deep and determined love for Christ, and for his people -- and it's one of the reasons Prison Fellowship is honoring Bishop Gassis with this year's William Wilberforce Award. The award is named for the English parliamentarian who fought against the British slave trade 200 years ago. Every year, Prison Fellowship honors the person who best emulates Wilberforce's commitment to eradicating social injustice, and no one is more deserving than Bishop Gassis. Born sixty-one years ago in Sudan, Gassis attended seminary in Italy and England. He returned to Sudan as a parish priest, and, in 1988, Gassis was consecrated a bishop. It was then, as Sudan's civil war raged around him, that Gassis became a liaison between the country's Catholic bishops and its radical Islamic government. But Gassis got into trouble when he criticized Sudan's human rights record, which reads like an abstract on atrocity. He spoke out against the slave raids that steal Christian children from their parents. He spoke out against the bombing of Christian schools, churches, and hospitals. He spoke out against the Stalinesque famines, through which the government deliberately kills hundreds of thousands. He spoke out against attempts to force the country's entire Christian population to convert to Islam. He spoke out when he saw Christians loaded onto trains and taken away to fearful fates in concentration camps. He stood before the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission and spoke out against the slaughter of two million Christian countrymen. Western leaders did not always listen, but Sudan's dictators heard him loud and clear. They placed Gassis under criminal indictment. This gentle servant of Christ is now the most wanted man in Sudan. Each time he returns to his people, bringing food and medicine, Bibles and blankets, his life is in jeopardy. Nevertheless, Gassis has taken responsibility for hundreds of orphans -- orphans who throw themselves into his arms whenever they see him. "It is time to end the silence," the bishop says, and he's right. The torture, enslavement, and murder of Sudanese Christians must end, and there is much the U.S. can do to bring that about. If you call us here at BreakPoint, we'll let you know how you can help Bishop Gassis feed, clothe, and educate his orphans. And we'll tell you how you can harness the power of democracy to stop a Christian holocaust in Africa. In his Christmas message, Bishop Gassis wrote, "While the world [prepares] to welcome the new millennium with joy and hope... my people cry: 'Lord save us.' Lord Jesus, move the hearts... of those who have the power to bring justice and peace to my people." As Prison Fellowship salutes this courageous man tonight at the Wilberforce dinner, I pray that all of you at home will remember in your prayers the suffering church, that the shackles of those who are persecuted for our Lord's sake might be broken.


Chuck Colson


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