Most of us could do without more committees and meetings. But nobody wants to do away with a committee as much as do we at the Minnesota Interfaith Darfur Coalition. We wish our work were done.
Our small group of faith leaders, human-rights activists, community organizers and students has been meeting for more than three years. We had hoped that once the world became aware of the first genocide of the 21st century happening in the Darfur region of the Sudan, the killing would stop.
Our spirits were buoyed as Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, was indicted as a war criminal, and President Bush called upon him at a session of the United Nations to stop the slaughter, only to witness ruthless reprisals against innocents on the ground increase. But today, it is politics as usual in Darfur.
We had hoped that international knowledge of the bombings, the looting and burning of villages, the brutal slaughter of men, and the gang rapes of women by the government-sponsored militias would end this senseless destruction of human life.
Hoped for attention to Darfur during Olympics
We had hoped that the 2008 Olympic Games might garner the attention of nations who know that China bankrolls the Sudanese attacks on innocent Darfuris. But boycotts never became the talk of the day. It was athletics as usual in Beijing, with genocide being trumped by gold medals.
We prayed that the broadcast images, Internet blasts and global reporting of 2.5 million displaced and 400,000 murdered Darfuris to date would signal to the world that genocide did not end at the turn of the millennium. But we did not learn from the Armenians, the Nazi Holocaust, Cambodia’s killing fields or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. It is business as usual in the arena of human cruelty and injustice.
Does it have to be this way? Does any political agenda, access to oil, water and land rights, or racial hegemony merit the purposeful annihilation of a targeted group? This is genocide going on in Darfur, and officials of the Khartoum government think they can get away with it. They’re right. They are getting away with it.
Sept. 3: Hold Khartoum accountable
On Sept. 3, at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, hundreds of people will gather to speak out against the heinous crimes in Darfur. Sudan should not be allowed to get away with this criminal war against humanity. Our hope is that some of the cameras following the Republican National Convention might shift their focus to the State Capitol and help us hold Khartoum accountable.
As America celebrates its democratic process and its freedom from tyranny, we must remind the convention delegates and the world at large that there are too many people still living under the yoke of oppression. Please join us on Sept. 3. After all, is there somewhere more important for you to be?
Bradley H. Lehrman and Rabbi Sim Glaser are co-founders of the Minnesota Interfaith Coalition for Darfur. Ellen J. Kennedy is interim director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and coordinator of Genocide Intervention Network-Minnesota.
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