Thursday, July 12, 2007

Learning About Darfur

Getting ready for Sunday's screening of The Lost Boys of Sudan at First Lutheran Church at 3 PM, it's appropriate to share a little bit here about Darfur.

I joined the Save Darfur Coalition two years ago. Of course, I had read about the genocide in this part of western Sudan but had done little more than shake my head about it. Then I got to know a number of folks at my last church who were Armenian-Americans. The generation of their parents had been completely wiped out during the Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turks in the early twentieth century. I had never heard about it before--that's because little is written about it--Turkey and even the U.S. government have never officially acknowledged it happened. When I learned of the pain my parishioners still felt from this great crime, I felt a personal connection to current events involving genocide.

Then I read an op-ed in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof about the genocide in Darfur that included pictures of men, women and children who were killed be the Sudanese government. One of the corpses was a little boy that reminded me of my own son Julian. I knew I had to act at that point. It just seemed absurd to me that yet another genocide could occur with the world fully aware of it yet doing nothing to stop it.

So, I wear the bracelet. I write my senators, congressmen, President Bush, Condaleesa Rice, etc. And I sit amazed by the fact that the genocide--mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape on a massive scale, etc. continues.

When I came to St. Joe, I was thrilled to find out that there were Sudanese folks moving here. Although they are from southern Sudan and not from Darfur, they too are victims of the Sudanese government which fought a brutal war against southern Sudan for over twenty years. They are here as refugees because of the brutal acts of the Khartoum government. I felt that perhaps God had used my own small work on behalf of Darfur to prepare me to minister to the Sudanese I would meet here.

The southern Sudanese are Christian and the people in Darfur are Muslim, but some of the southern Sudanese St. Joe feel they must work to help the people of Darfur since they share the status of victims of the Khartoum government. They also feel it is a way for them as Christians to reach out to Muslims and work towards reconciliation in their home country. Yet, I've learned this is also a thorny issue for others of them. The 22 year civil war in Sudan was between north and south. Some from Darfur fought on the side of the north against the south, so while most southern Sudanese would agree the genocide is a terrible thing, the wounds are too fresh for many to advocate for Darfur.

On Sunday, we will learn about the war between north and south in Sudan and how it led to refugees arriving here in St. Joseph. It is also a good time, however, to work to stop the violence in Darfur. No one helped the southern Sudanese over the last twenty years. Let's hope it doesn't take that long for help to come to Darfur. Visit to find out more.

Below is an excerpt from Nicholas Kristof's op-ed on Monday of this week. In addition to point out that the U.S.--probably the only hope the people of Darfur have of anyone putting pressure on the Khartoum government--still does nothing to stop this genocide, he also points out that since the Sudanese government has found it can act with impunity and face no consequences from the rest of the world, it is just a matter of time before it resumes its war against southern Sudan.

From Monday's NY Times: "Spineless on Sudan" by Nicholas Kristof

In May 2006, President Bush declared: “The vulnerable people of Darfur deserve more than sympathy. ... America will not turn away from this tragedy.”

Since then, Mr. Bush has turned away — and 450,000 more people have been displaced in Darfur. “Things are getting worse,” noted Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a human rights campaigner in Sudan.

One of the most troubling signs is that Sudan has been encouraging Arabs from Chad, Niger and other countries to settle in Darfur. More than 30,000 of them have moved into areas depopulated after African tribes were driven out.

In the last few months, Sudan’s government has given these new arrivals citizenship papers and weapons, cementing in place the demographic consequences of its genocide. And if Sudan thinks it has gotten away with mass murder in Darfur, it is more likely to resume its war against southern Sudan — which seems increasingly likely

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