Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Director of Social Action, Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis
The answer to the question of why Jews should care about Darfur is two-fold. In large part, the answer comes from  the Jewish community's historical experience. Jews empathize with the victims of ethnic cleansing because we have been victims ourselves.

We work to aid the weak and desperate refugees because not so long ago, we were refugees and very few individuals helped us. While some did and we acknowledge them and we honor them, far too many others did not. And that historical memory stays with us. 

From a religious perspective, there's a very clear mandate in our tradition to care about the weak and the vulnerable. Jewish tradition commands that you shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.

In our global village, we're all neighbors. And so, we can't be bystanders and stand by when children are targets of soldiers, when women and girls are raped as part of a military strategy. We can't stand idly by as villages are being destroyed or offer empty promises when people are being terrorized into leaving their homes. That's what happened to our community and we know better.

In the cases of Bosnia and Kosovo, the Jewish community was front and center in efforts in those travesties. In the case of Africa, there are fewer groups with a lot of political clout and experience in organizing that would be natural leaders in this issue, in which case the—it's even more important that the faith community step up and bring its experience to the table and organize these coalitions on Sudan.

The first and most immediate step for Jews is to take part in the rally in Washington on April 30. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said when he marched in Selma, Alabama with the civil rights marchers in the 1960s, he felt as if his feet were praying. We should all be praying with our feet on Sunday, April 30, at the Rally to End Genocide in Washington, D.C.

 

For those who can't come to the rally, the Million Voices Campaign is an effort to garner a million signatures and postcards to deliver to elected officials to let them know that we want them to intercede on behalf of the victims in Sudan. We want them to take action in the international arena, to work with our partners at the United Nations, with NATO and wherever there is help to be had in supporting the African Union troops and relief efforts on behalf of the victims.

Second, find other ways to let your elected officials know that you care about what's happening in Darfur and that you want them to use their resources to help.

And third, educate yourself and others about what's going on. I think when people hear about genocide, they care.

One of the things that Elie Wiesel has said is that the real crime that took place in the Holocaust was the crime of indifference, that one was either a victim or a perpetrator or a bystander. And we can't let that happen again.

So, if we've learned anything from our past, it's that we can't be bystanders. We have to speak up. We have to educate ourselves and others. And when we do that, people will not be bystanders. They will step up. They will rally. They will speak out. They will let their elected officials know that we care.


The Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs, the National Association of Evangelicals

The answer is rooted in the scriptures, which say that every person is important. The people of the world have rights that came from God himself. They are inheritors of the image of God, and because everyone is so valuable to God, it’s incumbent upon us, his stewards on this earth, to take the kinds of actions that would represent him. And the scope and the scale of what is occurring in Sudan and, particularly, Darfur—the wanton killing, the displacement of civilians—requires us to speak out and to act. It’s a simple biblical duty.

It is our responsibility as Christians to speak out. And it’s the responsibility of our public officials who are held accountable by God to do so. For example, we’ve just celebrated Easter, and one cannot go through the period of Lent and Easter without remembering the conversation that went on between Jesus and Pilate, in which Pilate says to Jesus, “Don’t you know that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” And Jesus humbly responds to Pilate, the highest political authority of his day, by saying, “You have no power except that be given you from above.” By that, Jesus meant that the political rulers—rulers of this kingdom, this age, of this time—they will be held accountable to God. And so, we’ve urged the President to do more to speak up. I think that our top officials, including the President, feel this deeply and the President has shown his commitment. But, he has to take further actions at this critical time. The first thing that people of faith can do is pray. I really believe prayer is that important. Second, they can join coalitions. Churches can band together, and with synagogues and others speak out on such a day as Save Darfur Day. They can, very practically, go to the website, Savedarfur.org, and issue an e-mail postcard to the President. They can call their member of Congress and urge their own members of Congress to pass legislation. 

It is essential for Christians to understand that the policy of the world to play down genocide and hope it will just go away is a bankrupt policy, not just practically, but morally. And for sure, there are no neat solutions to this problem, but ignoring this is not going to work, and we cannot turn our eyes away from it.

And so, the very first action, even before prayer, is to wake up and look out around us. There is a sin of omission as well as comission, and I think to ignore this brutality is a sin of omission. And it’s shameful not to notice when these terrified villagers have their own children, their own babies, grabbed out of their arms and shot and killed. This is not something we can turn our eyes away from. And it requires all of the aforementioned actions on our part. 

Because Christians got involved and were concerned about south Sudan, the world’s attention has more easily shifted to see what’s going on in Darfur. Christian people have played an enormous role in this; they deserve credit and encouragement to go on to greater acts of love and charity in Christ’s name.

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