( – promoted by buhdydharma )
This Sunday, April 13, from 12 noon to 4 pm on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Americans will have the opportunity to learn first hand what the past 5 years have been like for the children of the Darfur region of Sudan.
Sponsored by Amnesty International, STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, the Genocide Intervention Network, and the Save Darfur Coalition, this is a unique opportunity for people to gain an understanding of the complex yet devastating nature of the conflict giving rise to the ongoing genocide in Darfur.
When Anna Schmitt of Waging Peace traveled to eastern Chad bordering Darfur in 2007 to conduct research on the humanitarian, human rights, and security situation in the region, she was told “If you really want to know the truth, speak to the children.” She collected over 500 drawings by children in the camps. You can see some of them at the Save Darfur Coalition website here, or read more about them at the Darfur section of the Waging Peace website. These drawings can break your heart.
For a million Darfuri children, they have lived their entire lives now running from the janjaweed, traveling from camp to camp, never knowing the meaning of the words “safe” or “home” — these are concepts they have never experienced. Five years is a lifetime to a child.
Sunday’s event has two purposes: to help us all understand what is happening to the Darfuri people, and to remind President Bush that UN peacekeepers are needed now so that the children of Darfur – and the millions of civilians affected by five years of brutal violence – can live in peace.
Laid out on the green lawn of our Nation’s Capitol, you will be able to walk through Displaced, Amnesty International USA’s human rights exhibition on the everyday lives and rights of 2.6 million displaced Darfuris; visit a children’s art center; hear from Darfuri activists and human rights advocates; and take action to stop the violence in Darfur. For me, the most difficult part will be listening to some of the survivors — though I have heard a number of them speak and am always amazed at their determination to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
Right now, by all accounts, the Darfur peace effort is a wreck. The Sudanese government continues to fund armed militias while rebel groups are fighting among themselves. The international community continues to do little in the way of a sustained serious effort, and even the fragile North-South peace achieved after 25 years of civil war in Sudan is in danger of unraveling.
And all the while, the children are trapped in what must seem like the living equivalent of hell.
Last July, the United Nations finally authorized a hybrid UN/African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur. To date, the force remains understaffed, underequipped, and underfunded. The United States is one of the nations that committed funds but has not fully delivered. We must convince the White House and the Congress to release the needed funds immediately.
Just as the friends and people of Tibet are hoping to use the Beijing Olympics as a way to raise the visibility of their cause and to pressure the Chinese government, friends of Darfur are applying their own pressure on China to use their considerable influence over the Khartoum government. Right now, over 270 athletes from around the world have signed on to Team Darfur to raise awareness. Dream for Darfur is organizing a series of efforts to make it clear to the Chinese government and the world that the Chinese can and must use their influence to persuade the Sudanese government to allow a full and robust civilian protection force into Darfur. During the opening week of the Olympics, Mia Farrow will broadcast from the refugee camps to ensure that what is happening in Darfur is not lost in the corporate-sponsored pr orchestrated image of the Olympics.
But with all of the efforts of millions of people around the world to bring some relief to the children of Darfur, the crisis remains — and with the rainy season rapidly approaching, the now 5-year-old crisis will once again go from bad to worse.
I know many of you can’t be in Washington this weekend, and I will report back from the event as soon as I can. But there are many actions you can take to help. Here are links to a number of different groups that have action items for you to consider:
American Jewish World Service
Amnesty International USA
Genocide Intervention Network
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Investors Against Genocide
STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition
Sudan Divestment Task Force
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Do something, anything. Make sure that you have an answer to the question posed in a full-page NYT ad almost 2 years ago:
When your grandchildren ask
what did you do to stop the genocide in Darfur,
what will you say?
(cross-posted from EENR blog)