Four hundred thousand are dead. Five hundred more are dying every day. This is the current situation in Darfur, Sudan, where a government-sponsored genocide has decimated the population. Government planes destroy villages, militias rape women and upwards of 3 million people have lost their homes. The international community, in a virtual repetition of its behavior during previous ethnic cleansing campaigns in Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia, stands idly to the side.
Just one week ago at the United Nations, President Bush said that Americans have a responsibility to "protect the lives and rights of others ... and ensure that every human being enjoys the peace and freedom and the dignity our creator intended for all." These bold and powerful words ring hollow when it comes to the innocent Darfurians. Although the United States has given much humanitarian assistance to Darfur, our efforts end after reaching into our pockets. We have not taken a hard stance with the Sudanese government, constantly condemning but never threatening more drastic action. One reason for this is that the United States considers Sudan an important ally in the war against terrorism, and shies away from losing potential intelligence.
Yet many Americans do not even know that a genocide is occurring. While many Brown students, know about the crisis, the outside world remains largely oblivious. Much of this is due to our distracted mainstream media. According to a TVEyes report, in June of 2005, CBS dedicated 38 segments to the infamous "Runaway Bride," 614 to Michael Jackson's intriguing case, 321 to Tom Cruise's blossoming love life and absolutely none to Sudan. Apparently, 400,000 deaths do not merit even a few seconds of public attention.
The majority of Americans, according to a recent poll sponsored by the International Crisis Group, believe that more action must be taken to stop the genocide. However, others argue that African states seem to always have similar problems, and that we should focus on domestic isssues and avoid becoming the world's policeman. While I agree that Katrina-devastated areas must remain our number - one priority, we cannot forget the people in Darfur. The fact is, every human life matters. Every life - American, Russian, or Sudanese - is equal. That genocide is occurring in a country which holds little strategic importance to the United States does not mean we should ignore the killings. As citizens of an increasingly global world, we need to ensure that all people are treated humanely and with respect, without regards to where they hail from.
Many people feel overwhelmed when hearing about the genocide. They criticize the government for not taking action but do not do anything themselves. Today is the National Day of Action for Darfur. Religious leaders from across the country are congregating in our nation's capitol to voice their concerns regarding the genocide to political leaders.
We, as college students, need to do the same. We need to call our congressional offices and voice our opinions. We need to call President Bush's office and demand more action be taken. We need to urge our campus leaders to condemn the genocide and ensure that our University is divested from all companies complicit with the conspirators of genocide.
Today, a table will be set up on the Main Green allowing you to do all this. Sunday, an action and brainstorming meeting to kick off a semester of activism to stop the genocide will take place. Don't stand idly to the side as innocent civilians perish. As hundreds die every day, we cannot follow our President's example by throwing up words without following through. We must act, and we must act now. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.
Scott Warren '09 is a member of the Darfur Action network.