My trip recent to Algeria and the Western Sahara went very well and beyond my expectations.
The LORD had shown me so much within the seven-day period.
All eleven of us that made up the US delegation found ourselves overwhelmed to
say the least. The trip was basically a fact-finding mission to help promote awareness
to the plight of the Saharawi people who were displaced from their homeland by Morocco
after Spain gave up their colonization of Western Sahara.
Our delegation leader, Suzanne Scholte, is a very passionate person. She has won recognition and awards for her outstanding work on behalf of the North Korean people. Suzanne is the president of Defense Forum Foundation. Suzanne also established the US-Western Sahara Foundation, a project of the Defense Forum Foundation. As chairperson of this foundation, Suzanne has led and organized at least 45 trips for hundreds of US citizens to the Western Sahara region since 1993.
These trips were basically fact-finding missions, involving key US congressional staff members, journalists, leaders of Christian Humanitarian organizations, and other non-governmental organizations. Nearly every American who has become involved in the issues concerning the indigenous Saharawi people of Western Sahara were first inspired through these fact-finding missions. And now that list also includes me and the rest of the US delegation that went on this recent trip to the Western Sahara.
In brief, the conflict over Western Sahara is a struggle between the democratic, pro-West, Muslim society, the Saharawis, vs. the Kingdom of Morocco. The conflict began in 1974, when Spain first promised the Saharawis, the indigenous people of Western Sahara, then a colony of Spain, the right to vote on self-determination.
However, Spain withdrew from the colony before the vote was held. Meanwhile, Morocco had already objected to a vote on self-determination, claiming the northern portion of Western Sahara as part of Morocco, while Mauritania claimed the southern portion. The International Court of Justice ruled that neither country could claim the territory of Western Sahara and that the Saharawis had the right to vote on self-determination.
On the day of the ruling, October 16, 1975, the late King Hassan of Morocco, announced a "peaceful" Green March of 350,000 Moroccans into the Western Sahara. The POLISARIO, the political movement formed by the Saharawis originally to seek independence from Spain, went into war against Morocco and Mauritania when they were invaded by soldiers from these two countries.
Most of the Saharawi women, children, and elderly fled across the Sahara desert for refuge in Algeria. The Morocco Air Force dropped napalm on these unarmed, civilian refugees as they fled for safety. As a result, 2000
Saharawis died as they were forced to flee, and they sought refuge in the deserts of Algeria.
The POLISARIO defeated Mauritania (Mauritania now supports the Polisario) in 1979, but the war against Morocco continued for years until a cease fire orchestrated by the United Nations occurred in 1991. The UN established MINURSO to oversea the cease fire and a referendum allowing the Saharawis to vote or independence or incorporation to Morocco.
However, the UN became a tool of the aggressor and Minurso was clearly being manipulated by Morocco to fix the vote so that Morocco would win.
Several Americans blew the whistle on this corruption including Ambassador Frank Ruddy (Vice Deputy of MINURSO) who testified before Congress about Morocco's obstruction in 1994.
The referendum has never taken place since, and has resulted to untold suffering and oppression of the Saharawi people, of which tens of thousands ended up in refugee camps in the desert northwest of Algeria near the city of Tindouf.
Many of the Saharawis struggling for their right to self-determination have also become captive within their own land by the Moroccan occupiers since 1975.
To make things more complicated and difficult for the Saharawis, the Moroccan invaders built a 2,400 kilometer (1500 miles) "wall" that stretches from the north to the south of Western Sahara, taking control of two-thirds of the Saharawi land. This wall called the "BERM," has separated Saharawi families since Morocco's claim to their homeland.
On our recent fact-finding trip, we found out that the Moroccan military has placed about eight million mines outside of the BERM, on the liberated zone, which is only a third of Western Sahara, where innocent civilian Saharawis have fallen victims of these mines. Our US delegation traveled to Western Sahara and saw for ourselves the wall built by the Moroccans.
It was a grim reminder of the suffering inflicted to great numbers of innocent victims of oppression by the builders of the Berlin Wall. The BERM also reminds us of the plight of the Korean people. The present-day conflict between North and South Korea, remains a dagger in the hearts of the oppressed people of North Korea and their families living in the south.
This is where my heart was drawn and touched by the struggles of the Saharawi people. After having seen the BERM, visited the Saharawis in the refugee camps in Algeria, heard the testimonies of the displaced Saharawis, and met with the top leaders of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara), one cannot help but pray and petition the LORD GOD, who created all men equal, to intervene and deliver the Saharawis from their thirty-five years of struggle.
Our separate meetings with the leader of the Saharawi Republic, President Mahamed Abdulaziz and his wife, Hadija Hamdi, sealed my convictions, about the struggles of this precious people of the Saharan desert. I felt humbled and honored when each of them requested me to pray for their people and in their struggle to win back their occupied homeland.
On both occasions, the Spirit of the Lord, inspired and led me to read and quote from the Bible before I prayed. It was a witness to them that there is a GOD who cares and desires and seeks justice and righteousness and truth on behalf of oppressed people. President Mohamed Abdulaziz and his wife, Hadija, were impacted and touched by the power of the Written WORD and the powerful presence of the HOLY SPIRIT.
President Mohamed Abdulaziz had declared an openness to the Christian message. He had stated that Western Sahara will be open to the Gospel once they regain and return back to their homeland. Glory to GOD!
Does the LORD show us things for us to do nothing? What would have happened had Moses failed to act on what GOD showed him in Egypt? What if Saul of Tarsus refused to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles? What if Martin Luther remained silent about his Biblical convictions?
I have been moved to tears and challenged in my heart to somehow do something to help expose the truth concerning the suffering people of Western Sahara. Their resilience, humility and courage, is an open invitation to all the freedom-loving citizens of the Earth to look into their cause, and perhaps do something to help free the occupied territories so that the Saharawis may live in freedom, dignity and equality.
As a ministry, Christians In Crisis, is committed to the cause of the suffering Church...this mission does not stop us from becoming a face and a voice for people who are oppressed, and for those fighting for their dignity and freedom.
We believe in the strength of prayer. Prayer releases the power of GOD through CHRIST JESUS' Matchless Name, to deliver, heal and save those who need HIM. Prayer is the least and the most that we can do.
Will you join us in this struggle? Will you be the one to help us pray for this beautiful desert dwellers?
The sources of the report above are from Suzanne Scholte and my own observations during our trip to Western Sahara and Algeria. There's more information about the Saharawi's cause if you go to arso.org, or do a search on Defense Forum Foundation and/or Suzanne Scholte.
Thanks for your time reading my trip report. Please consider funding this ministry and my family as we continue to bring the only message of hope - JESUS CHRIST, to oppressed and suffering inhabitants of the Earth.