Do you ever read something or see something that just breaks your heart? For some people, it’s an animal without a home; for others it is someone sitting by themselves for lunch.My heart breaks for the aforementioned but also for the rape, murder and destruction in Darfur, Sudan.
When the Holocaust was over, the world cried out, “Never again!” We have backed down from our promise.
After the genocide in Rwanda, the national community apologized for turning a blind eye to its neighbor and refusing to get involved. They didn’t want the trouble of labeling the murder of thousands of people as “genocide” for fear they would have to do something about it. For three years, the Janjaweed, a government-backed militia, has raged a blind war on Sudanese civilians, transforming what was their home into vast, empty earth.
I respect our legislators, and I know how difficult it is to try and solve other people’s problems. But this is not someone else’s problem: it is ours. We are members of the national community, and, although sometimes we are saturated with the idea that we are better than our neighbors overseas, we are fooling ourselves if we think we are unaffected by this horrible tragedy.
Sometimes problems seem so large or distant that we feel more comfortable pushing away thoughts of a woman being raped, a child being murdered with a machete and a father watching his son being murdered, all in the time it has taken to read this article. And, honestly, sometimes that is how I get through the day, too. But the compartmentalization of our outrage cannot last forever. It must not last.
I love the “Simpsons,” but we must abandon our “Homer-like” attitude of, “You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.”
For all of the number-oriented people out there, here are some facts that I have borrowed from Amnesty International magazine:
– A low estimate of 300,000 people have been killed or died as a result of the conflict in Darfur.
– 215,000 people have fled Sudan to neighboring Chad because of the violence. Added to the 1.8 million people that have been displaced, that makes more than 2 million (roughly the whole city of Houston).
– Although 3.5 million Sudanese citizens are dependent on humanitarian aid for food, shelter and medicine, 250,000 refugees have been blocked from receiving aid because of the political infighting.
All of these numbers seem rather large, I know. It gets worse:
China, Belarus and Lithuania have supplied Sudan with military aircrafts and parts.
Belarus, Russia and Poland have supplied Sudan with tanks, military vehicles and artillery.
China, France, Iran and Saudi Arabia have supplied Sudan with grenades, guns and ammunition.
The Sudanese government spent $18 million on weapons in 2003, with an untold amount still being spent to supply the Janjaweed with the five to six guns per militia member, according to Amnesty International magazine. The biggest tragedy, apart from the people who have lost their lives to senseless acts of violence, is that no one is being held accountable.
In March 2005, the International Criminal Court established a Sudanese war crimes tribunal to prosecute the war criminals. No one has been prosecuted.
I know it seems big. I know it seems too far away for any of your efforts to be effective, but it is not. I have seen our nation pull together in times of tragedy, specifically this time last year for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Now let’s do something that makes us think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.
-Write to your federal legislators:
The Honorable (your senator)
Washington, DC 20510
– Visit and/or join Amnesty International at: amnestyusa.org to get the latest updates on events around the world and in your community.
– Refuse to be silent. Let’s think of ways to get our college, our city and our state to open eyes and see how much of a difference we can make.
JoHannah Hamilton is a junior anthropology major from Burleson.