George W. Bush was the first and only world leader to have said plainly that the mass killings in Darfur are genocide. And at Freedom House in Washington on March 25, the president emphasized: “When we say genocide, we mean genocide must be stopped.” He continued by pointing out that the African Union’s small force in Darfur is not enough: “There should be a NATO overlay of support.
However, it was appalling to hear, on PBS’ “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer say that “Africans feel very strongly” that they should take care of problems on their own continent. So, he added, one “should be careful” about imposing oneself on them. “There is not yet the need for declaring a willingness for [NATO] to participate.” There is not yet a need when more than 300,000 unarmed African Muslims in Darfur have been killed or died of disease; 2 million have been displaced; and when the United Nations’ chief humanitarian coordinator, Jan Egeland, declared on April 4 that barbarism in Darfur “is changing dramatically for the worse.”
The nations of the world seem to have forgotten what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in 2005. “Experience has led us to grapple with the fact that no legal principle, not even sovereignty, should ever be allowed to shield genocide, crimes against humanity and mass human suffering,” he said. “But without implementation, our declarations ring hollow. Without action, our promises are meaningless.” Yet now, in America, a growing number of organizations have joined the Save Darfur Coalition for a huge rally on Sunday, April 30.
This is a coalition of more than 160 faith-based, human-rights and humanitarian organizations. Rarely has there been such an extraordinary range of groups so committed to act — not just sign petitions to end atrocities.
Among them: The American Jewish World Service, the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, Amnesty International,the United States Holocaust Museum, the National Black Church Initiative and an array of regional and local organizations.
Also among the organizers is the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group, which worked for years to awaken Americans to the mass killings and slavery perpetrated in the south of Sudan on black Christians and animists by the very same Sudanese government in Khartoum that is now guilty of conducting with its murderous militia, the Janjaweed, the genocide in Darfur. In addition, joining the coalition is Christian Solidarity International, which redeemed many thousands of slaves from northern Sudan over the years, and still is. At least 40,000 black Christian and animist slaves are still in the north.
The April 30 “Rally to Stop Genocide” will take place between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the National Mall, between Third and Fourth streets in front of the U.S. Capitol Metro Station Federal Center SW (Orange and Blue lines). The crowd will assemble from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
For information on this rally and how to be a part of it, the Web site is: savedarfur.org/rally, or call Chuck Thies, the rally coordinator, at (202) 478-6302.
Among the speakers will be Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Paul Rusesabagina, who risked his life to save more than 1,000 people at the hotel he managed during the genocide in Rwanda, a story told in the riveting movie, “Hotel Rwanda.” Also, the former National Basketball Association star Manute Bol, a native of Sudan; Iman Rauf, founder and CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement; and Ruth Messinger, executive director of the American Jewish World Service, which has so far raised more than $2 million to provide emergency relief and support for the survivors of genocide in Darfur.
Elie Wiesel, who knows genocide firsthand, said in a message to the coalition planning the rally: “Who is guilty? Those who commit these crimes. But to the question, ‘Who is responsible?’ we are compelled to say: “Aren’t we all?” The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity planned to send a delegation to Darfur in April, but the government of Sudan told the foundation its request is under review. As of this writing, not surprisingly, there has been no further word from Khartoum.
Among those invited to attend the “Rally to Stop Genocide” on April 30 are President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the four chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus and other members of the House and Senate. I hope they come so that they will fully understand and feel how vital it is for concerted action to save the black Africans not yet hunted down by the Janjaweed and the Khartoum government that is ruthlessly — and so far with impunity — committing such crimes against humanity.