Beliefnet
Progressive Revival

Today is the third day of the Hebrew month of Elul.  This
is the last month of the Jewish calendar, a time of sustained introspection in
preparation for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of
Atonement).  Among the special
rituals enacted during Elul is the sounding of the
shofar (ram’s horn) following morning prayers.  This ancient ritual is designed to
awaken us to
teshuvah, to
spiritual return, during this season of renewal.    

When I sounded the shofar this morning, my thoughts turned
to Darfur, Sudan.  As has been
widely reported in the media, the Sudanese government and its proxy militia,
the Janjaweed, have carried out a brutal
scorched-earth campaign against their opponents in the western province of Darfur.  This genocidal rampage has involved the burning of homes and
crops, the destruction of wells and granaries, and the rape, torture, and
murder of countless civilians.  The
violence in Darfur has led to the displacement of approximately two and a half
million people and the death of hundreds of thousands of others.

Despite mounds of evidence, international leaders have been
unwilling to take the necessary steps to stop the crisis in Darfur.  China has been Khartoum’s most
significant ally, repeatedly using its veto power as a permanent member of the
UN Security Council to prevent the passage of strong measures against the
Sudanese government.  While China
did support a 2007 Security Council resolution calling for the deployment of a
hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force to Darfur, Beijing weakened that
resolution before it was passed. China also doubled its trade with Sudan in
2007 and, in violation of a UN arms embargo, continues to supply Khartoum with
weapons used to perpetrate violence against innocent Darfuris.

Beijing is not, of course, the only international power
implicated in the genocide. Though its actions are particularly despicable,
other world leaders have failed the Darfuris.  As an American citizen, I am deeply disappointed with
President Bush and his administration. While the President was one of the first
heads of state to name the crisis in Darfur a genocide and, with Congress, has
supported substantial funding for relief aid, he has not demonstrated the kind
of consistent engagement necessary to help end the genocide in western Sudan.  Bogged down by the war in Iraq and
other political misadventures, the President has not used the bully pulpit
effectively to create a strong international coalition to properly address this
crisis.

As the contest for the next American president intensifies,
we must insist that senators McCain and Obama pledge to make Darfur a priority
if elected.  There are several
critical steps that the new president will need to take in the coming months:

  • Work
    aggressively with the UN Security Council to deploy the full peacekeeping
    force promised in July 2007, including the equipment and logistical
    support to carry out their mission effectively.

  • Do
    everything in his power to persuade China, Sudan’s most important economic
    and political ally, to play a constructive role in helping end the
    genocide in Darfur.

  • Continue
    to provide the people of Darfur with the necessary supplies to endure in
    refugee and displaced persons camps. 

  • Advance
    a sustainable peace for all Sudan, including a viable peace process for
    Darfur and increased support to uphold the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
    in southern Sudan.

  • Work
    with the international community to bring to justice all those who are
    guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Hebrew month of Elul is a time for individual and
communal reflection, a time to honestly assess our actions over the past year,
and to set our goals and priorities for the coming year.  When we sound the shofar each morning,
we attempt to stir ourselves anew to become agents of justice and compassion.

In the spirit of Elul, I pray that during this historic
election season people of conscience throughout the country–Jews and non-Jews,
religious and secular, Democrats and Republicans–engage with renewed commitment
in the struggle to save Darfur, calling on the next president to dedicate
himself to ending the pain and suffering of the people of western Sudan.      

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