Darfur – Silence No More
This afternoon, I sat down at the back pew of the First Congregational Church in Long Beach & engaged in a forum/discussion regarding the current genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Its five panelists illustrated the crisis in detail; offered potential resolutions for what many of us feel so helpless toward.
I learned that since early 2003, the Janjaweed is responsible for taking the lives of 400,000 of our brotherhood. About 2,500,000 civilians have been driven from their homes, their villages torched and property stolen. More than 200,000 Sudanese have escaped to neighboring Chad, but most are trapped inside Darfur. Thousands more die each month from the severe lack of food, water, medicine, & proper shelter.
Sitting there, absorbing it all, I realized that it is not about the overwhelming numbers; it is about individual lives. The mother who simply holds a morsel of maize for her starving baby; the young girl who trembles at the thought of leaving the camp to fetch firewood & water for fear of being raped; and the 7-year old boy infested with parasites & resulting dysentery, purging to death for lack of medication. The displacement camps are overrun with families that have lost their fathers. Some villagers scrounge for sticks & plastic bags to construct shelter from the sun and wind.
Some of us were simply overcome with feelings of powerlessness at the images, statistics & atrocious accounts of suffering among our Sudanese brethren. Yet, as the presentation progressed, we felt a sort of collective hope surge within us â€“ that as long as we never succumb to silence & apathy, Sudan will prevail.
I donâ€™t mean to oversimplify the crisis by any means, however once the forum ended, it became clearer how much we could truly bring about by standing in solidarity, advocating for Darfur on a local level alone. That by â€œlighting one candle,â€ so-to-speak, it illuminates so much light around us.
Well, here’s what I learned of interest today:
Â· Simply contributing $30, buys 2 solar cookers for a family in a displacement camp. These stoves covert sunlight into heat to cook food. Why is this essential? Well, it eliminates the need for the women/girls to leave the camp for firewood, thereby reducing their risk of rape & violence. See: www.jewishworldwatch.org. Furthermore, the production of these solar cookers provides income generation opportunities for the refugees.
Â· Never underestimate the strength of adding political pressure to end the crisis. We can inundate Condeleeza Riceâ€™s phone with a call to action: (202) 647-6575; the White House (202) 456-1111; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Stress the need for increased humanitarian aid, establishing a â€œno-fly zone,â€ & pushing for deployment of a peacekeeping force. Mostly, just let them know we care.
Â· â€œGlobal Days for Darfurâ€ takes places April 23-30, 2007. During this time, various rallies, marches & vigils are taking place throughout the U.S. to raise awareness. Support & join your local coalition: www.savedarfur.org.
Â· We can support on-the-ground non-profit groups, such as the International Rescue Committee or CARE International, who provides access to medical care, water, & food within relief camps. You can check out: www.theirc.org or www.care.org.
These are just a few simple suggestions as to what we could do.
Today, more than ever, what MLK once said truly struck a deep & haunting chord in my heart: â€œOur lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.â€ I just hope for a long life.