When the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, the entire world shook. We mourned. We paused. In an instant, we realized both the tragedy and severity of what had taken place. Lying within the wreckage of those smoldering, obliterated buildings were the lifeless remains of some 3,000 people—real people who once had thoughts and feelings and families and dreams. The world has never forgotten their loss.
When calamities of such horrific proportions occur in America or in Europe, it remains the stuff of front page headlines and talk shows for months at a time. But the cry of Africa seldom negotiates our attention. Many would be shocked to know that in the past year an estimated 30,000-50,000 people have died unjustly in the African country of Sudan, while going mostly unnoticed and unreported in the rest of the world. Countless more will soon die. Nearly 2,000,000 people are homeless and living in abysmal conditions in refugee camps guarded by corrupt government police officers. Soon, with the advent of the rainy season upon them and the alarming scarcity of food and water, endemic diseases and starvation will undoubtedly threaten this already weakened people.
After a recent visit to the troubled region, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “The grievous situation must be addressed urgently; hundreds and thousands of lives are at stake.” It has been termed by the U.N. as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” and by the United States Senate and House of Representatives as “genocide.” Still, many Americans know little of the atrocities that are transpiring in the region.
The Darfur region of Sudan, roughly the size of France, lies on the western side of the country and shares borders with Libya, Chad and Central African Republic. Since the late 1800’s warring factions and imposing governing regimes have plagued the region. In the 1970’s tensions between the indigenous black African Muslim majority and the nomadic Arab Muslim minority began to mount. In Feb. 2003, two rebel groups comprised of men from the native black African Muslims launched an offensive toward the Arab-led government in the capital city of Khartoum claiming that it had been involved in gross discrimination against them and the indigenous people of the Darfur region by forcibly and unfairly commandeering their land and natural resources. To quell the insurrection, the government of Sudan assembled and funded a group of nefarious Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed to take action not only on the rebel forces, but more specifically, to carry out calculated attacks on the innocent inhabitants of the land. With complete subsidy and total impunity offered by the Sudanese government, the Janjaweed has since methodically and wantonly carried out unprecedented large-scale atrocities against the indigenous black Muslims including, raping the women, pillaging and burning homes, businesses and entire towns, slaughtering livestock, and indiscriminately murdering between 30,000-50,000 men, women and children.
Nearly two million natives have now been displaced and are fighting for survival at refugee camps near the border of Chad. The Sudanese government has provided guards for the camps by recruiting members of the Janjaweed who routinely and capriciously carry out sexual assaults on females regardless of age. These camps are often isolated and inaccessible by trucks carrying much needed supplies. Once the rainy season has begun it will create a treacherous environment unsuitable for travel and ripe to become a pandemic haven of communicable diseases. The potential for thousands of casualties within the next few months seems nearly imminent. The Sudanese government has blocked the entrance of many foreign aid groups from intervening citing their own capability to resume control to the chaotic region.
The United Nations has given the Sudanese government and ultimatum, which must be fulfilled by the end of last month to avoid significant economic sanctions. Thus far only minor efforts have been made by Sudan to abide by the timetable. Meanwhile, the Janjaweed continues their gratuitous abuses.
The events emerging in the Darfur region are just another chapter in the long book of bloody violence that has plagued Sudan for many years. During the course of the past 21 years a divisive civil war between the government-backed Arab Muslims in the northern regions and the predominantly black African Christians in the southern area of Sudan has led to some 2,000,000 deaths and nearly 4,000,000 displaced people.
We can no longer afford the luxury of living in ignorance of the genocide that is taking place in Sudan. The alarm has sounded. The Sleeping Giant has woken from his slumber and the choice to act is no longer an option. Urgency is upon us.
The time to act is now. The situation in Sudan is grave. People are dying every day. And these are people; people who have thoughts, feelings, families, and dreams like those unfortunate souls who perished on Sept. 11. Unless something is done immediately, they are certain to meet the same fate. Humanitarian aid is desperately needed.
As citizens of the world and as American Christians with a wealth of resources at our fingertips, we must be compelled to do everything in our power to help the people of Sudan. Above all, we must pray. We must also act with the same love that Jesus Christ taught. We can start by becoming better educated in the specifics of the crisis, and in turn, inform others. We can become politically involved by writing to the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, members of the United Nations Security Council, and the members of the Sudanese government. Finally, we can give money and support to any one of a number of organizations involved in bringing humanitarian aid to the Darfur region. (Click here for more information on these organizations: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/sudan/interactive/how2help/content.html ).
Please do not watch this catastrophe unfold before our eyes. Do whatever you can, but please do something. The lives of thousands of Sudanese people, real people, are at stake.[Adam Kortekaas is a 29-year-old freelance writer and neologist from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the founder of The Kortekaas Group, an advertising and marketing agency that specializes in creating brand names for new products and services.]
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