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SAVE DARFUR: A RALLY TO STOP GENOCIDE

March 26, 2006

Will We Just Sit By As Darfur Suffers?

“Save Darfur: A Rally to Stop Genocide” will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 30. Speakers will include religious and political leaders, human rights activists, survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Kosovo, Srebrenica, Rwanda, South Sudan and Darfur, and celebrities.

By Luanne Austin
Congress last week approved President Bush’s request for an additional $439 million to help the people in Darfur, Sudan, reports the States News Service.
Darfur, where 400,000 people have been slaughtered in three years.
Darfur, where 3.5 million people have no food.
Darfur, where 2.5 million people are homeless because of the violence.
Women are being raped every day. Children are dying of hunger. Men are being gunned down.
A few weeks ago, the movie “Hotel Rwanda” arrived in the mail from Netflix. Yes, I had put it on the list, but I struggled a few days before watching it. I do not watch movies to be entertained into a lethargic state.
I knew that in Rwanda in 1994 nearly a million people were slaughtered in three months. A million people in three months. And I knew that a genocide of potential similar proportion is happening right now in Darfur, a region in Sudan.
I also knew that once I’d seen the “Hotel Rwanda,” I’d be responsible for that knowledge. I am assaulted daily with information I do not seek or want, but I knew what I was getting into by watching this movie. Before the opening credits, the actor, Don Cheadle, who played the main character, talked about how the people of Sudan are right now suffering similar atrocities as their Rwandan neighbors did 12 years ago.
In July 2004, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and American Jewish World Service held a Darfur Emergency Summit. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author, called upon fellow Jews to get involved.
“How can anyone who remembers remain silent?” Wiesel asked, invoking the biblical law, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the shedding of blood of thy fellow man.”
Jesus taught only two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. When a lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the story of the good Samaritan: anyone you see suffering.
President Bush, when he took office in 2001, wrote in the margins of a report on Rwanda, “Not on my watch.” Darfur activists, concerned citizens and alarmed leaders are holding him to that. Our country has been the largest single donor to Sudan. We facilitated the Comprehensive Peace Accord, which brought an end to civil war between the country’s north and south. But the present government in Khartoum has continued to back the Jingeweit (or Janjaweed) militia that is doing the killing, raping and destroying.
When House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led a bipartisan delegation to Sudan in February, Sudan Vice President Ali Osman Taha asked her why Americans were so interested in Sudan’s domestic affairs.
Pelosi replied that “genocide is not the domestic affair of any nation — it concerns the world,” according to a States News Service article published on March 20.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Jan Pronk, head of a United Nations envoy to Sudan, reported that “killings, rapes and armed attacks on Darfur villagers were committed by armed gangs secure in the knowledge that no one would stop or punish them.” Pronk called on the United Nations to help the 7,000 African Union peacekeeping troops. The peacekeepers, overwhelmed by the violence, may soon need to withdraw, says Pronk.
The U.N. has decided to do nothing for the present because they’ve been squabbling over whether the situation classifies as genocide.
A Web site, www.savedarfur.org, has lots of information on the history and current news of the Sudan conflict, what’s been done about it and what can be done. It’s the Web site of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 155 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations.
The coalition calls upon people everywhere to help with specific action: the Million Voices for Darfur post card campaign, church prayer services, educational community events, the ambassador program and sending aid.
“Save Darfur: A Rally to Stop Genocide” will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 30. Speakers will include religious and political leaders, human rights activists, survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Kosovo, Srebrenica, Rwanda, South Sudan and Darfur, and celebrities.
When Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager whose brave actions saved 1,268 of his Rwandan countrymen, thanked Jack Daglish, a news cameraman, for shooting footage of the genocide, Jack replied, “I think if people see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s horrible. And then they’ll go on eating their dinners.’ “

Will we?

Contact Luanne Austin at 574-6292 or laustin@dnronline.com

Related: Take Action to Stop Genocide in Darfur

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