|Commentary: Christians must take Darfur crisis personally|
Oct. 6, 2005
A UMNS Commentary
By Beth Reilly*
During a visit this year with Sudanese President Al-Bashir, U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice witnessed the Sudanese security
staff "manhandling" reporters and staff members. The incident angered
Secretary Rice, and she demanded an apology from the Sudanese
After two years of the Sudanese government's participation in genocide,
after two years of torture, rape and murder, it was a pushing incident
that ignited action. This incident shows the significance of a situation
becoming personal; when something affects us in a personal way, we act
To ensure progress in Darfur, the crisis needs to become personal, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The crisis of Darfur began in February 2003, when several African tribes
that were feeling the effects of economic marginalization united
against the Khartoum government. The government retaliated with a
vengeance, arming a militia that became known as the Janjaweed, "Devils
on Horseback." The Janjaweed burned homes, murdered men and boys,
gang-raped women and girls, and destroyed food and water supplies.
The numbers of people who have been affected are staggering. The lowest
estimate of death is 180,000, about three times the number of U.S.
fatalities in the Vietnam War, and the highest estimate reaches 400,000,
a number comparable to our national death toll from World War II.
More than 2 million Darfurians are displaced, and 3.5 million need food.
The extent of devastation on lives is similar to that of last
December's tragic tsunami, which hit South Asia and parts of Africa.
Although African Union troops have been deployed to provide protection,
the number remains insufficient to establish security. Life has become
survival of the fittest in crowded camps where battles are waged against
sporadic violence, a limited food supply and infectious disease. The
genocide continues in slow motion.
There are legitimate reasons to become involved when we consider the
extensive pain in an analytical or emotional way, but when we add a
spiritual dimension, the case for Christian involvemaent is
indisputable. Jesus very clearly stated the priorities we are to have:
love God and love our neighbor. Even when a situation is complex,
distant and poorly publicized, we have no excuse for our lack of
While Christians are generally successful meeting the needs we "see" in
person or in the media, when the need is more obscure, harder to
visualize, comprehend and remedy, we are less successful. We are failing
in Darfur because most Christians remain uninvolved. Jesus commanded
love your neighbor as yourself - in other words, make it personal.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of USAID
displaced women in North Darfur wait for food. The United Nations
estimates 1.6 million have been pushed from their homes in Sudan.
The situation in Darfur has had an impact on my life because I have
lived overseas and learned that whether we are American, European or
African, our similarities far outweigh our differences; we all have the
basic desires for love, security and happiness.
It is heart-wrenching for me to read about the conditions that mothers
and children are facing in Darfur. Having a son almost 2 and daughters 3
and 5, I allow myself to imagine what life must be like for a mother in
Darfur, and it would be inconceivable for me to do nothing to help
those in such desperate need.
So I will continue to receive weekly updates from SaveDarfur.org as I
educate myself and others about the situation. I will continue to visit
my senator's office and to write letters to the president asking them to
work harder on a resolution. I will be a voice for Darfur. My voice
joins those of others, including leaders of the National Council of
Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Save Darfur
More people must get involved. On Sept. 28, during a Senate Foreign
Relations hearing, Sen. Joseph Biden expressed concern about a lack of
political will from Americans. That same day, 300 Arab men on horses and
camels attacked a refugee camp in northwest Darfur, murdering 29 people
and burning 80 makeshift shelters. U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland
warned that the escalating violence during September was threatening aid
Given the severity of this situation, it is a costly mistake for
Christians to sit on the sidelines and hope that others will resolve the
crisis. The time has come for the tragic situation to impact one's
mind, heart and soul.
The time has come to get involved ... personally.
*Reilly attends Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is an advocate for the people living in Darfur.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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