2005-06-10 Grand Rapids Press Heard of Darfur..It matters

Heard of Darfur? It matters.
Grand Rapids Press

Darfur Matters. Located in western Sudan, Africa’s largest country of more than 39 million people, Darfur is about the size of Texas. It was home to six million people before the conflict began there two years ago. Sudanese troops and government-backed militias have engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing of the largely black Sudanese population who are mostly farmers.

The organization, Save Darfur, explains the Sudanese Arab militias are using such tactics as mass murder, restricting humanitarian access, razing villages, destroying food and water supplies, abducting children and raping women.

Stories from the New York Times this week tell of rape victims being told by military perpetrators, “We want to finish you people off. You are black people. We want to wipe you out.” Nearly 300,000 are estimated dead since the conflict began, not to mention wounded and maimed and raped, with more than 2 million people displaced.

Talks were to begin today in Nigeria between the Sudanese factions, facilitated by leaders of African countries and the international community. Darfur Matters. Yes, it does to those who refuse a repeat of the genocide in Rwanda, while the world turned its head.

Darfur Matters is now the name of a new West Michigan committee attempting to make Darfur a household name n the area through advocacy and education. The committee is a loose coalition of students and faculty from Hope and Calvin colleges, Grand Valley State University, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Worldwide Christian Schools, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and Sudanese immigrants.

The committee is open to anyone committed to acting on the conviction to prevent Darfur to slip from our own, or nations, consciousness. By September, presentations will be available for local groups or churches willing to host an awareness and advocacy event.

Darfur Matters. Or does it? According to a recent poll, the International Crisis Group found that while 64 percent of likely voters in the United States knew of Darfur, 46-percent were “only slightly aware.” Once becoming aware, however, most favored U.S. intervention through sanctions, supporting more international troops (but not our own) and more direct condemnations by the Bush administration and Congress. So far, the White House has been all but silent.

Does Darfur matter to you? Darfur does matter-to God-and that should be reason enough to act!