Holocaust in Plain Sight

On April 30 in Washington, a 'Rally to End Genocide' confronts the shame of indifference

 [U.N.] official Jan Pronk told the Security Council that killings, rapes and armed attacks on Darfur villagers [are being] committed by armed gangs secure in the knowledge that no one would stop or punish them.

New York Times, March 22


Africa's largest country [Sudan] has the opportunity to reach for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.

From an eight-page special advertising supplement by the self-congratulatory government of Sudan on March 20—that enriched the Times by over $900,000— urging further investment in that splendid country


Long before the genocide in Sudan, I had been reporting for years in the Voice on the Sudan government's murders, gang rapes, and enslavement of black Christians and animists in the south of Sudan—and the attempts of the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group, black American pastors, Christian Solidarity International, and a few members of Congress to awaken this country to the horrors in Sudan.

The then secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, said to a protester that the atrocities there were not "marketable" to the American public. But eventually a critical mass of Americans— including schoolchildren around the country sending money so that Christian Solidarity International could redeem black slaves—helped create enough international pressure to lead to a still unstable January 2005 peace agreement between the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the South. But at least 40,000 black southern Sudanese slaves remain in northern Sudan.

After three years of the atrocities in Darfur, which have now spread to refugee camps in Chad, Hans Wuerth, part of a persistent interfaith coalition in Pennsylvania acting to stop the genocide, received a letter this past February 28 from Heather Flynn, a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in support of their "grassworks action" because, she said:

"The people of Darfur do not have a constituency here in the United States, and there is no one to lobby for them in Washington."

That is no longer true. On April 30, the Save Darfur Coalition—an alliance of more than 155 faith-based, humanitarian, and human rights organizations— will hold a rally at the National Mall in Washington: the "Rally to Stop Genocide."

I don't have the space to list all the members of the coalition, but they include as co-sponsor the American Jewish World Service (which has been instrumental in organizing the Jewish community and has already raised more than $2 million to provide emergency relief and support for the Darfur survivors).

Among the other coalition organizers for the April 30 rally are: the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the National Association of Evangelicals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Anti-Slavery Group, Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity International, Physicians for Human Rights, National Black Church Initiative, and various regional and local organizations.

For information on the rally and how to be a part of it, the website is: savedarfur.org/rally. Chuck Thies, the rally director is at 202-478-6302. To sign up for the rally, you can also click on ajws.org.

The April 30 rally will take place between 2 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). Crowd assembly: 1:30 to 2:00 p.m.

On the same day The New York Times took nearly a million dollars from the mass-murdering government of Sudan for eight pages of glowingly illustrated "bright prospects" for investors, a template of utterly false advertising to gull Times readers. There was this Times editorial:

"After the Holocaust, the world vowed it wouldn't stand back and allow genocide to happen again. Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda showed how empty that promise was. . . . Is this really what we have come to? The United Nations has described the carnage as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis but continues to prove itself completely useless at doing anything to stop it.

"In the Security Council, China protects Sudan. Europe, for its part, has been inert." Does this editorial atone for the advertising supplement?

And no journalist, anywhere in the world, has done more, in his repeated trips to Darfur, to show the monstrous, insatiable face of this genocide than Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times as in this March 14 column:

"It is brutally demoralizing for people in these villages to be hunted down as if they were wild beasts, to have their children pulled from their arms and thrown into burning huts. But we should be just as demoralized by our own indifference. The shame belongs not to the good people of Darfur and Chad, but to ourselves."

The organizers and participants in the April 30 Washington "Rally to Stop Genocide" are, to say the least, not indifferent. And by April 30, the Save Darfur Coalition expects to have at least a million postcards to send to George W. Bush from its Million Voices postcards campaign (you can sign an electronic Million Voices card at savedarfur.org: click on "Million Voices for Darfur"). This is the postcard:

"Dear President Bush: During your first year in the White House, you wrote in the margins of a report on the Rwandan genocide, ' Not on my watch.' I urge you to live up to those words by using the power of your office to support a stronger multinational force to protect the civilians of Darfur."

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