CRISIS DEMANDS OUR ACTION, ACTIVIST SAYS
By Waveney Ann Moore
St. Petersburg Times, FL
Feb 25 2007
The ongoing Darfur genocide requires that we shed our apathy,
ST. PETERSBURG – Those who attend Ruth Messinger’s talk about Darfur on
Thursday should prepare for an earful. Expect the educator, advocate
and activist on the genocide in western Sudan to use statistics to
drive home her points:
-The genocide in Darfur is now in its fourth year.
-Close to 500,000 people have been slaughtered.
-2.5-million people have been displaced from their homes.
-4-million now depend on the outside world for survival.
In a telephone interview, Messinger, president of American Jewish
World Service, an international development organization that has
been providing humanitarian aid to the displaced people of Darfur,
said it’s past time for people to get involved and take action.
She urges people to learn about the crisis, lobby Congress to do more
to help, write letters to the editor and contribute to relief efforts.
She also scolded the media for its scant attention to the crisis.
"It’s a complicated story," she said. Further, she said, some people
dismiss the conflict as "black people killing black people."
"People treat it as if it is far away and not related to their lives."
The genocide in Sudan’s western province began in early 2003, when
Sudanese forces and government-backed Arab militias, or Janjaweed,
tried to crush two rebel groups fighting what they described as
the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum’s marginalization of the
region’s black Africans.
International observers accuse the Sudanese forces and Janjaweed of
raping, starving, killing and displacing the civilian population.
Hundreds of thousands are now in displaced-persons camps in Sudan
and refugee camps across the border in Chad.
This week the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is
expected to name the first of those suspected of war crimes and crimes
against humanity in Sudan’s western region, the United Nations said
Thursday. Attempts to end the conflict continue to fail, Messinger
said. "There’s a tremendous amount of violence on the ground right
now. More people are being killed," she said, adding that international
aid workers are being pulled out for their own safety. Some have
Those clamoring for the world to pay attention to the crisis in Darfur
point to other modern-day genocides, like the Holocaust, which took
the lives of 11-million people, 6-million of them Jews, during World
War II, or the 1.5-million Armenians killed between 1915 and 1923 by
the Central Committee of the Young Turk Party of the Ottoman Empire.
Messinger’s American Jewish World Service is a co-founder, along with
the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, of the Save Darfur Coalition –
151 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights groups. The coalition
has been running TV commercials, picketing, generating letter writing
campaigns and raising money to ease the woes in Darfur.
Local groups have joined the effort. Last year the Jewish Community
Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County and
the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater sponsored an interfaith
gathering about Darfur.
In St. Petersburg, a large street-side banner that said "Call to
your Conscience, savedarfur.org," is on display on Congregation B’nai
Last fall, the Pinellas County Interfaith Coalition organized a Save
Darfur benefit concert.
Messinger’s talk Thursday at the Florida Holocaust Museum is being
sponsored by the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis, the JCRC of the
Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties, the St. Petersburg
Branch of the NAACP, the Pinellas County Interfaith Coalition to Save
Darfur, the St. Petersburg Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
and the Florida Holocaust Museum.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 892-2283 or [email protected]
By the numbers
500,000 People have been slaughtered in the genocide in Darfur.
2.5-million people have been displaced from their homes.
4-million people depend on the outside world for survival.
Tour museum, listen to talk
What: "From Awareness to Action: Responding to Genocide in Darfur,"
by Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. N, St. Petersburg.
Details: The museum will open at 6 p.m. for docent-led tours and remain
open until 9. A question-and-answer session and dessert reception
will follow the talk. The event is free. For more information, call
Dawn Sullivan at the museum, 820-0100, ext. 265.
To learn more
– Save Darfur Coalition, Suite 600, 2120 L St. NW, Washington, D.C.
20037, (202) 478-6311. E-mail [email protected] Web site,
– American Jewish World Service, 45 W 36th St., New York, NY
10018-7904; (212) 792-2900 or 1-800-889-7146. E-mail [email protected]