- Why should people of your faith care about what is happening in Darfur?
- What concrete steps should they take to help end the violence in Sudan?
On April 30, 2006, the Save Darfur Coalition is rallying in Washington, D.C., to urge the U.S. government to take action to end the carnage in western Sudan, where millions of people live under threat of being slaughtered by government-backed militias. According to reports by the World Food Program, the United Nations, and the Coalition for International Justice, 3.5 million people are now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced, and 400,000 people have died in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder, American Society for Muslim Advancement
The genocide in Darfur, Sudan, is of world importance, and most important to Muslims, because our brothers and sisters are dying there. It is our obligation as Muslims to make sure genocide does not happen anywhere at any time. The Qur’an is quite explicit about how the life of an innocent may not be taken without justice, and that is what is going on in Darfur.
Genocide in general is a very horrible thing that must be eradicated. But this situation in Darfur should be even more important to us because these are Muslims killing other Muslims, which is something we need to raise our voices against loud and strong. So I urge the U.S. Muslim community, especially those in the Washington, D.C., area, to come out and participate in the march against genocide on April 30, 2006.
Muslims are being challenged on many fronts these days. We have many issues--the war in Iraq, racial profiling, taking Islam back from extremists, building coalitions with other faith groups--that our community is addressing. There’s a certain element of being overwhelmed by the variety of problems we are facing, a sort of activism-fatigue. But, though this is our reality, we cannot turn our backs on the Muslims of Darfur.
There are things we can do. First, we need to galvanize ourselves around the issue and bring it to the forefront of our consciousness. This can be done by speaking about the genocide in Darfur at Friday prayers and holding lectures about it at mosques and Islamic community centers across the country. Second, we need to build coalitions with individuals and institutions to build a critical mass of people supporting some sort of resolution to end the genocide.
And last--and this is nothing new--we need to write to our respective congressmen and senators to make our position clear. The U.S. government is of course against the genocide, but if we make ourselves heard as a strong, unified Muslim voice, then government policy can be driven by the sentiment of the people. It’s a grassroots effort, but it should be a key part of our efforts to make some sort of end to the unfortunate situation in Sudan. But the easiest thing of all that Muslims can do is just show up on April 30 in Washington, D.C. This is our community that is suffering. We must express ourselves.
Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service
The simplest answer is that everybody should care. There have been a number of genocides in the past 60 years since the Holocaust. We’ve lived through Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, South Sudan, and now Darfur, and I think the world is gradually waking up to the fact that genocide is a problem of immense evil for which there’s not full understanding or predictability. But if there’s going to be any meaning to the concept of "never again," it’s clear that people have got to organize politically, ideally to predict genocides and stop them before they start, but certainly to stop them once they’ve been initiated.
So, a big piece of this is simply a humanitarian or a human responsibility. The Jewish community has a particular interest in the phenomenon of genocide and knows not only what genocide means but, perhaps more strikingly, knows the danger of silence from the international community in the face of this kind of evil.
And I believe that it’s partly out of that experience that there’s been such a significant response from the Jewish community to the crisis in Darfur. And we at AJWS, both as a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, promoting its activities and, independently, have tried to do as much as possible to stimulate a full Jewish response.
What we’re looking for the Jewish community to do is to be present, both physically with their bodies at the rally in Washington on April 30, but also to share the story of what’s happening in Darfur broadly in their communities, to be involved in the Web-based electronic postcard, “Million Voices For Darfur” campaign, to continue to read up on the issue, and to arrange for themselves or other people to speak about this crisis in the various parts of the Jewish community, from congregations to organizations to schools.