Save Darfur


Here are a few recent news articles about Sudan and Somalia.  I don’t want to turn into a spammy blog, just reposting news stories, so these reflect my passions and highlight two major crises in today’s world.  These stories are no joke.

The Star-Tribune reports (from an AP wire story) that with Sudan kicking out aid groups over 1 million will lose access to food:

The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.

About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren’t filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.

She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.

And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.

We allow this to continue in the name of national soverignty – even though international laws have been broken.

Change.org’s genocide section has a great article about the politics involved and Obama’s quandaries:

According to Gerson, the U.S. and the international community thus “faces a decision”: Do we take a soft-line with Bashir in hopes that aid groups are readmitted, or do we accept the short-term consequences likely to come from increased pressure on Sudan, but that also has the potential to break Bashir’s death grip on the region?

It’s a messy political calculus, any way you shake it— either caving to Bashir’s tactics in Darfur, which hold innocent lives hostage in a no-holds-barred international power struggle, and thus nearly guarantee that this upper-hand will be used again in the future, and to the detriment of millions, or (if you’re President Obama, in particular) taking the risks that come with stepping into the ring.

If one thing is clear, it’s that any attempt to deal with Bashir will not succeed with one foot in, and one out. The full “diplomatic toolkit” must be on the table, including the credible threat of military force. It’s not a simple question of black-and-white moral certitude: Consequences on the ground in Darfur will be grave (though, they already are), and on the international political scene, Obama has to weigh the cost of further angering the Arab world at a time when his agendas in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine also hang in the lurch.

It’s not a one-off — it’s a diplomatic package deal. So the decision comes down to: Are the lives of the millions current subjected to the whims of Bashir’s genocidal regime worth not only the political cost of action, but the on-the-ground consequences as well?

Gerson concludes:

“Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, or else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, ‘Never again.'”

I’d argue that we’ve already lost the right to say “Never Again,” but that does not lift our responsibility to answer the question, “What will we do, right here, right now?”

I’d agree.

Somalia is a strongly Muslim country where people are killed for being Christians or even just non-Muslim.  The 30 Days website offers some insight into life in Somalia.

God’s forgiveness filled him with hope! Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.

Be sure to read the comments on that post.

Finally, Oxfam recent released a report on condition along the Kenyan-Somali border in the refugee camps.

According to inter-agency projections5 the most likely scenario given the continuing crisis inside Somalia is that an additional 9,000-10,000 new refugees will continue to arrive in Dadaab each month throughout 2009, even if the border remains closed and despite registration delays and shortage of adequate services. In a worst-case scenario, up to 200,000 people could arrive in a very short time period. In the current situation of extreme congestion none of these new arrivals will be allocated plots or materials to construct their own shelter, and will not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. They are likely to experience delays in obtaining access to food rations and health services. Competition over water resources will increase. Cholera is already present, and a serious outbreak remains a real risk in Dadaab. The ever-increasing overcrowding and poor sanitation and waste disposal facilities, as well as the lack of investment in hygiene promotion, are only exacerbating this risk. In short, a humanitarian emergency will unfold in 2009 in Dadaab unless at least 36,000 of the existing population are immediately served in a decongestion
site near to the existing camps and new camps are constructed to receive the 120,000 new arrivals projected for 2009.

Learn more and take action.

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Is it possible to have both peace and justice at the same time? Yes, but not always.

We have some great historical examples of where peace reigned and justice prevailed. Tragically, there are probably more examples of when this didn’t occur.

The most recent and relevant is related to Sudan and the ongoing extermination of the Darfuri people.

What are Peace & Justice?

PeaceFor our purposes, peace is a freedom from civil disturbance a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom or a state or period of mutual concord between governments as in a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. (Webster)

Justiceis the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity. (Wikipedia)

So in the case of Darfur, peace would be the absence of conflict, improved security and safety around refugee camps, and a return of the refugees to their original homes without a fear of violence.  Justice would be the prosecution and imprisonment of individuals involved in illegal activities, such as rape, murder, pillaging, arson, and other similar atrocities.

Advocates around the world have been actively seeking a combination of the two to occur in the Texas sized province of Darfur in Western Sudan.  However, at times their actions and advocacy have not always aligned with the best interests of the refugees and aid workers.  I am just as guilty as the next advocate in this instance.  We have been advocating for peace since 2003 and haven’t had any real success in that regard.

Governments around the world took action… but failed the people of Darfur with their token responses.  We send peacekeepers without proper equipment, underfund them, and understaff them – setting them up for failure yet again.  What is the purpose of documenting atrocities instead of preventing them?  Yes, you must document a crime to prosecute it… but how many must die in the process?

In the past few weeks the International Criminal Court issued an indictment for the President of Sudan.  The first time such an indictment has been issued for a sitting head of state.  It may also be the first time that it is clearly a head of state allowing crimes against humanity and war crimes to occur.  Read more at the ICC’s Darfur Page.

This indictment was a clear step toward justice and holding an individual accountable for the actions they knowingly allowed to occur.  The debate in many circles is… was that a wise move?

I don’t know claim to know everything but there definitely are some problems related to this.  Everyone knew that after the indictment all the humanitarian aid workers would be either kicked out or harrased and that came to pass.  Everyone also knew that the indictment is almost impossible to enforce – Sudan and many of its closest allies are not signators (nor is the US) on the charter of the ICC.  This means that we and they have no responsibility to act on its warrants.  The president is fairly safe to travel around within those countries without risking arrest.  It is almost impossible to arrest him in Sudan because he has popular support within the capital and much of north Sudan.

So why go after justice knowing that it will be hard to serve and create everything but peace? I agree it should give Darfuri people hope that ultimately justice will be served and their death and suffering will be vindicated.  I can’t imagine that will mean much as they continue to suffer each day.

Jim Wallis gives a clear account of what has happened since the ICC indictment:

Over the past few weeks, 13 international humanitarian organizations have been expelled from Sudan at the dictate of Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan. These actions came soon after the International Criminal Court handed down an indictment of al-Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. As a result, 1.1 million Darfuris are without food, 1.5 million without health care, and more than 1 million without access to clean drinking water. If there was any doubt as to whether or not he was truly acting in the best interest of his people, his use of food and water as weapons of war show that he just does not care about the people of Darfur.

and continues

With the expulsion of these humanitarian organizations, al-Bashir has shown that he has no interest in the well-being of the people of Darfur or in bringing piece. These actions show that once again there comes a time when a political leader has so violated standards of international law and morality that he should no longer be treated as a sovereign, even in his own country, but as a criminal. Actions like this show that he should no longer be president, but prosecuted and brought to justice like the international fugitive of the law he now is. If he was serious about peace and progress, the first thing he should do is welcome the aid organizations back into his country, and without that he has ensured that this warrant will be pursued.

There is no doubt that if we continue to watch there will be neither peace nor justice.  We must act for both. Hoping and praying that somewhere along the way somebody with power will stand up and say ENOUGH and take immediate action that will end the pain and suffering of millions of innocent children, women, and men.

Other good reads include

ICC Not as stupid as the cynics may have thought

If Not Peace, Then Justice

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Img from USAID

What does the phrase “Not on our watch” mean? We hear it off and on, from a variety of people in a variety of contexts. Well Don Cheadle and John Prendergast want you to know that while they are alive and kicking they will not allow genocide or mass atrocities against humanity to go unnoticed. In their book titled, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, they have created an activists guidebook.

Sharing from their personal experience they relay the hard story behind the current genocide in Darfur. They share easy steps that can be taken to end the horrible tragedy there.  One letter can shift the balance in government which could change the entire landscape of how the world interacts with Sudanese officials. The two authors draw on their experiences with advocacy, but throughout the book share short stories about how regular individuals, like you and me, have taken action.  Simple ideas that create massive change – that is the theme of the book.

Outside of the short stories, it can get a little dry, but when you realize that you can create change it can be a powerful motivator.  Out of their efforts came an organization called the Enough Project, which basically wants to end and prevent future genocides.

I’ve had enough of the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children.  Have you?

The book ends with this great quote from Cheadle, it is a powerful reminder we are not alone in our work.

Times like this, it’s easy to feel powerless, easy to feel alone. But when I take off those blinders and look around I see that I am actually surrounded by many people “intending the light,” as Joseph Campbell says, hoping against hope to make a difference in their time. I grow inside as we grow in size, not an army of one but one of many taking up the gauntlet thrown at our feet. Millions of lives hang in the balance, their futures determined in part by wheter or not we act. Ultimately, I pray that we not stand down from our post. Not us. Not now. Not on our watch.

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That was the question answered in a series of articles published by the Christian Science Monitor on August 22.

Reporter Danna Harman interviewed a variety of celebrities, humanitarian professionals, and Africans to see what kind of impact celebrity’s are having on the continent.  She was met with mixed reviews, but concluded that overall it is having a positive effect.  We are left to wonder if maybe their impact could be increased by better coordination and overall planning.

In the first article, Can Celebrities Really Get Results? Bruce Sievers, a visiting scholar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif, points out that,

“There are so many dimensions to intervening in a different culture. The question is, how well informed are all the celebrities trying to do a thorough job in Africa, let alone those who just travel over and are blown away by the poverty?”

Maybe a more important question is are they willing to stick with their “cause”  as long as necessary for it to succeed?

The answer, of course, is that it depends. Celebrity attention to Africa runs the gamut. Some stars show up for a single celebrity poker match in Las Vegas or a benefit cocktail party in New York to raise awareness for an issue. Others write large checks, lend their names, and even roll up their sleeves to help, but still court controversy along the way. And yet others get deeply involved, hiring advisers and studying to understand the challenges, before deciding on what role they can play most effectively.

Former President Clinton reminds us that celebrities are humans too and that while the struggle to change societies may be a long time coming, lives are still being changed.

“We should not have unrealistic expectations,” says Clinton, at the conclusion of the interview in Zambia. “It’s not easy to change societies … but still, all of us can change lives.”

 

“Celebrities are like other people who do this … some of them will stay at it for a lifetime, some of them will quit. Real life will intrude on them just as it does on the rest of us. They will have children and want to spend more time with them … or they will get bored or get sick. But on balance, these high-visibility, high-profile movie stars are part of a global movement of giving, which is a function of our interdependence.”

In the second article, Harman tackles the questions surrounding celebrity adoptions. Her conclusions again are mixed but this data point is hard to argue with:

In October 2006, after Madonna took custody of David, phone inquiries to WHFC (Wide Horizons For Children which helped Jolie with her adoption, but not Madonna) increased by 38 percent – this despite the fact that the agency had nothing to do with Madonna’s adoption and does not even facilitate adoptions in Malawi. In July 2005, the month Angelina Jolie’s adoption became public, the number of phone inquiries received by WHFC more than tripled over the previous month.

 

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This was a busy weekend!

Saturday was an Acting on AIDS Regional Conference hosted by Anderson University and conducted by World Vision. Sunday was a Rally for Darfur at the Indiana State House.

Acting on AIDS

Acting on AIDS is a program started by Christian college students to create awareness and activism of the global AIDS pandemic at colleges and universities across the nation. With the support of World Vision, Christian college students have formed a network of Acting on AIDS chapters which seek to change hearts on campuses, create awareness in communities, and advocate for those impacted by the global AIDS pandemic.

Steve Haas, VP of Church Relations at World Vision was the main speaker. He used a lot of Scripture to make his points. Some of the things that I found impactful are:

  • Women are 12x’s as likely as men to contract HIV/AIDS through HETEROSEXUAL activities.
  • Luke 4’s madate to evangelize by caring for the poor
  • We have Kingdom Assignments that include Justice and Peacemaking
  • We need to give more than a % of our $ but also a % of our time, heart, and mind!

They also showed this powerful video. Finally we ate a Broken-Bread meal. During the meal they invite you to Identify, Intercede, and Interact.
Identify by eating a corn-soy blend porridge which is the exact porridge used by WV and other relief organizations around the world during a crisis situation. Not the worst porridge, but not like a good oatmeal or grits. They also ask you to sit on the floor and remain silent during the meal. You are also given an “identity card” on which is a story about a child and their desperate situation.
Intercede by reflecting quietly and asking for God to intervene and to continue to raise up faithful people to help meet the needs of His people.
Interact by talking in small groups about the meal, your identity (child), and whatever else.

This was a powerful way to experience even a snippet of what is happening.

I would also encourage you to check out Bound4Freedom

Rally for Darfur

Check out these past posts for a reminder about the situation in Darfur:
April 5, 2007 March 30, 2007 January 23, 2007 January 11, 2007 December 19, 2006 December 15, 2006 December 7, 2006 November 28, 2006

Indiana currently has legislation pending for Divestment from Sudan.

Harkening back to the days of Apartheid South Africa, fiduciaries have explored the option of divesting from companies that either do business in Sudan or with the government of Sudan. Indeed, numerous states, cities, and universities have already divested while dozens of others are currently considering this option. Building on this momentum, the Sudan Divestment Task Force has developed a unique model of divestment that maximizes divestment’s impact on the government of Sudan while minimizing unintended harmful effects on innocent Sudanese citizens and on the health of institutional investments.

Organizations that helped sponsor Sunday’s Rally include:

Save Darfur
Citizens for Global Solutions
ENOUGH
Sudan Divestment Taskforce (which is a project of the Genocide Intervention Network)
Darfur Peace & Development Organization
Campus Progress
Fidelity Out of Sudan

A few things that really struck me and please if nothing else take these actions:

  1. Visit the Save Darfur Coalition website and click through some of their simple action steps.
  2. Sign the Petition to Fidelity. They said today that if everyone in the US divested their money from Sudan (with surgical precision) almost $1 Billion could be taken away from the Sudanese Genocide Machine.
  3. Darfur, Rwanda, Kosovo, Khmer Rouge, Nazi Germany. These were all modern-day genocides and we said we’d never let it happen again after the Holocaust.

A really good resource for information about Darfur is found at the Guardian (a British paper).

They have a Q & A about the conflict. And a whole section on Special Reports about Sudan.

This is a letter from the Save Darfur Coalition If you haven’t taken action yet please take 3 minutes and send a letter to your congressional delegation and other leaders. I thank you and the millions of men, women, and children who are impacted thank you.

Dear friends,

Did you know that 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur, Sudan? Each day, they face threats that are hard for us to even imagine including rape, disease, and starvation.

These people need our help to put an end to the genocide and they need it NOW.

Please join me in taking the first step to stopping the violence.

Click the link below to sign the Save Darfur Coalition’s petition urging President Bush and UN Secretary-General Ban to take immediate steps to stop the killing.
http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=7071

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of people in the region who desperately need outside help.

The Save Darfur Coalition is urging President Bush and the UN Secretary-General to prevent further killings, displacement, and rape by deploying UN peacekeepers, strengthening the understaffed African Union force that is already in Darfur, establishing and enforcing a no-fly zone, increasing humanitarian aid, and ensuring access for delivery of food, medication and other essential supplies.

Please do not stand by while the violence continues – you can make a difference. Click below now to get involved.
http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=7071

Then please forward this message to your friends and family and ask them to join you.

If you’d like to make a donation to support the campaign, click the link below.
https://secure.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/darfur/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=2083

Thanks for your help.