August 18, 2004
Dear Very Famous People
A horror is unfolding in Sudan. And one woman is determined to make a difference.
I've known Elyzabeth Marcussen for several years as an online friend. She cares passionately about people who live on the margins of life, people who have no one to speak for them. Recently, she's opened my eyes about the genocidal tragedy in Sudan. Here's an editorial that appeated in the Cincinnati Post, written by Mike DeWine (Republican senator from Ohio) and John McCain (Republican senator from Arizona):
Imagine that we could rerun the events that occurred in Rwanda 10 years ago. With the certain knowledge of horrific events to come, would the world's great nations again stand idle as 800,000 human beings faced slaughter? If the recent expressions of grief and regret from world leaders are any indication, the answer is no -- this time things would be very different. Yet, in 2004, just as in 1994, the international community is on the verge of making a tragic mistake. Mass human destruction is unfolding today in Sudan, with the potential to bring a death toll even higher than that in Rwanda.
Darfur, a Texas-size region in western Sudan, is the site of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Since December the largely Arab Sudanese government has teamed with the Janjaweed, a group of allied Arab militias, to crush an insurgency in Darfur. The methods that the government and the Janjaweed have employed are nothing short of horrific. They are slaughtering civilians in a systematic scorched-earth campaign designed to "ethnically cleanse" the entire region of black Africans. By bombing villages, engaging in widespread rape, looting civilian property, and deliberately destroying homes and water sources, the government and the Janjaweed are succeeding.
The numbers are appalling. Some 1.1 million people have been driven from their homes, and as many as 30,000 are already dead. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that, even under "optimal conditions," 320,000 may die by the end of this year, and a death toll far higher is easily within reach. In the face of this catastrophe, the government and the Janjaweed continue to block humanitarian aid, and widespread killing and destruction persist. While civilians flee, the government's Antonov bombers target water wells, granaries, houses and crops, clearing villages so that the Janjaweed can enter and take over. In the meantime, famine looms.
The administration has rightly spoken out against the atrocities in Sudan and taken admirable steps, including the provision of financial support and increased diplomatic pressure. The State Department has also made clear that the Sudanese government is sorely mistaken if it believes it will get a free pass in Darfur in exchange for brokering peace with rebels in the south. But as the rainy season approaches and threatens to hinder the delivery of aid, time is running out. We must do more, and we must do it immediately. . . .
A survivor of the Rwandan genocide named Dancilla told her story to a British humanitarian group. She said: "If people forget what happened when the U.N. left us, they will not learn. It might then happen again -- maybe to someone else." All Americans should realize one terrible fact: It is happening again.
"I am a strong individual...probably of my friends one of the strongest if not the strongest. I am tapped out in my volunteer efforts, but most able to help those in need. I help them in anyway I can. I certainly do not give excuses like, "I know your husband is beating you but if I call it domestic violence I am morally responsible to help you get out of that situation. I am presently unable to do that. So, therefore it is not domestic violence. And I don't have to help you out."
Instead, I say, "I will protect you in anyway I can." And then, I find a way. By enlisting the help of other friends. By giving to organizations that help that person. By standing up and speaking out publicly about domestic violence.
We are not any less involved as human beings on the same planet simply because we call a waddling, quacking duck a sparrow.
I know there are many important causes in the world, but I'd be a hypocrit if I didn't keep nagging people to write to spur the international community to call Darfur genocide."
She mentioned in an online discussion recently, "For a moment, let's pretend Michael Moore and the Swiftboat Dudes are at a corner bar discussing the 7 minutes Kerry spent on the can. One million plus people are still expected to die while their government not only turns their back on them, leaving them stranded at the border...but continues to strafe them with helicopter gunships put in the hands of those who would see them perish...even burn alive."
The current situation in Sudan is dire. It's too late to save thousands who have been murdered by the janjaweed or died from starvation. Wondering where the international uproar is, Elyzabeth penned the following letter to those celebrities who have opined long and loud about various world events. Her words are compelling and need a wider audience.
Dear Very Famous People:
I write this letter to all the celebrities, pundits, wonks and op ed types in the hope that someone with star powered wattage could turn the world’s eye to the death and destruction continuing in Darfur, Sudan.
I thought that perhaps if people like Michael Moore, Bill Clinton, Linda Rondstadt, Paris and other famous people making the rounds in the headlines shouted out to people for help in Darfur, maybe we could get the world moving.
Mr. Moore. I know you worked very hard on Fahrenheit 911 and it includes some very important footage and revelations. But now, those 7 minutes are really unimportant when you consider that a million people are on the verge of starvation. Remember when you stormed that beach in Connecticut? Maybe you could storm the refugee camps along the Chad/Sudan border and help get the food these people need. You can even poke fun at McDonald’s and Enron while you do it.
Mr. Clinton, I know you’ve already just recently discussed the Sudan on your book tour. But every time they ask how many times you slept on the couch, could you answer with “Oh, this one mom in Maryland would like for me to respond to that very important question with the phone number to Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Oxfam, Amnesty International and many other more important numbers?” I think it would be beneficial twice…first, it would get out these phone numbers for people to make donations. And then, it would shut them up, because, really… who cares about your affair with Monica when as recently as this last Tuesday, another village was strafed with bullets from a Sudanese helicopter.
Linda Rondstadt… prove your compassion for the world by saying something productive. And, even better for you, the people dying in the Sudan are mostly not Christians OR Republicans. So, you’d be saving people you like by asking people to donate.
Paris, while you and Nicole are driving around the country in a camper… perhaps you could put the number for your favorite relief organization on the side of your Airstream.
I have written my representatives and the newspapers asking for more attention to this global dilemma. But, apparently, tens of thousands of displaced people dying the cruel death of starvation just isn’t as sexy as a gay governor stepping down with his wife at his side. So, maybe we can find some gay refugees who have momentarily put aside their fight to be married in order to stay alive as the rains, locusts and newly deputized Janjaweed police officers rape their daughters.
Please…speak out against this genocide. Donate to the relief organization of your choice. Talk about this with your friends and family. But do not put this on a back burner. The need for international help is now.
Donations can be made to these very hardworking groups by either writing, calling or visiting on-line:
Friends of WFP
P.O. Box 11856
Washington, DC 20008
Donor Services Dept.
26 West Street
Episcopal Relief and Development (this is my faith…I’m sure many other faiths have emergency missions underway… in fact, the link below offers a listing of ways for different faiths to donate on-line. The ERD allows me to give directly to their Sudan Relief Fund.)
Episcopal Relief and Development
Newark, NJ 07101
1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129
333 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
Can you add your voice?
Posted by Deb at August 18, 2004 11:14 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
When you write again about that please let me know.
Posted by: Lindy Kley at October 13, 2011 10:12 PM
great post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don't notice this. You must continue your writing. I'm sure, you have a huge readers' base already!
Posted by: Gordon Danburg at November 18, 2011 09:46 AM