The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of 134 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights groups representing 130 million Americans, today met with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and members of Congress and delivered a letter urging them to make stopping the genocide by government-sponsored militias in Darfur, Sudan, against civilians their No. 1 priority. Simultaneously, Coalition members in more than 50 local communities in 21 states held "National Day of Action" vigils and wrote postcards to President Bush urging him to lead the world in protecting the civilians of Darfur.
"We told senators and Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick when we met with them that, as the world's most powerful country, the United States has a moral duty to lead the world to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians in Darfur," said Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, based in Washington, D.C. "But we didn't just say 'do something'; we proposed specific steps to resolve this horrific humanitarian crisis that is killing one Darfurian civilian every four minutes."
According to recent reports by the World Food Program, the United Nations ( U.N.) and Coalition for International Justice, 3.5 million people are now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, and up to 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur since February 2003.
"In 1999, Arab militia burned the Dilli village where my family and I lived. I was outside the village with my cattle, but my brother and sister were burned alive and my mother ran away and I still don't know where she is," said Faisal Hussain Omar, a Darfurian farmer and cattle trader. "We moved to the Shoba village, but another militia attack later that year killed my father. In 2002, a huge militia wearing army clothes burned down 47 houses and all of the huts in the village when I was outside the village with my cattle, but my wife who was five months pregnant was there. I don't know if she is alive or dead. We desperately need the United States' help to protect us."
"Currently, the only security on the ground is an undermanned African Union force that cannot protect civilians or aid workers," said Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, based in New York City. "To stop the bloodshed, the African Union will need a stronger civilian protection mandate, a major increase in the number of troops on the ground, and much larger logistical and monetary contributions from the U.N., European Union, and NATO. Only the United States has the power to lead that effort."
"We commend the efforts of the Bush administration in brokering a peace deal to end the gruesome 21-year civil war in the south Sudan and its generous pledge of $300 million in U.S. humanitarian aid," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, based in Washington, D.C. "Now, the Bush administration needs to press the United Nations to approve a Chapter 7 mandate allowing the African Union to use force to protect both civilians and themselves and Congress needs to pass The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, so the perpetrators of this genocidal activity are held responsible for their crimes against humanity."