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Sorrow in Sudan
By Vivian Ho
Friday, September 29, 2006
Students rally in N.Y. for African country
In some small way, students involved in Westborough High School's Darfur Student Alliance are buoyed by the fact they can make a difference in the plight of victims in far-off Sudan.
And that's just what these members did earlier this month by joining the hundreds of thousands gathered worldwide for the Global Day for Darfur Rally. In New York City alone, where we students traveled, there were more than 30,000 people at the rally held in Central Park.
The park was packed and there were Darfur supporters as far as the eye could see. Everyone present wore light blue hats, berets and bandannas, to send a message to the United Nations. There were so many people that it was hard to decipher where the blue hats ended and where the sky started.
As many people as there were though, the number was but a 15th of the victims in Darfur, Sudan. The 30,000 in Central Park would have to have been victimized 15 times over to even come close to the number of deaths and brutalities that have occurred and are still occurring in the African country.
The horror in Darfur has been happening for more than three years. A Sudanese government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed has been terrorizing the civilian populations of Darfur since early 2003 in response to two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement.
More than 400,000 innocent civilians have been killed, more than 2 million forced to flee to displaced-persons camps in Sudan or refugee camps in Chad, and more than 3.5 million are completely reliant on international aid for survival. On July 22, 2004, the United States Congress officially declared the situation in Darfur a genocide.
Still, most people can't fully comprehend what's going on in Darfur, and worse, not a lot people even know about the situation. That's why the students felt strongly about attending the rally.
"It's like something you see in a movie," says WHS senior Jess Hong, who was one of the 12 to attend the rally. "You just can't understand that it's really happening."
More than 20 people die every hour in Darfur. It's a staggering number, but a number nonetheless. What's difficult to understand is that those 20 people are real people. Imagine now, that those 20 are 20 Westborough residents. Imagine those 20 people as your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your best friend, the person sitting next to you this very moment.
Those 20 do not die peacefully; they're either executed by the Janjaweed, beaten and mutilated, maybe even raped and violated, before being killed, as the majority of women and children have been, or starved or dehydrated to death. What's happening in Darfur is real, the pain of losing a loved one is real, the empty ache of hunger is real, and the fear of not knowing what is to come is real.
The issue is there, even if it's not reported, even when it's not known. What's happening in Darfur is happening to real people, and it isn't the first time it's happened.
On the bus ride to the rally, a 19-year-old Sudanese man named James reflected on his experiences. He came to the United States in 2001, not knowing a soul. While the genocide in Darfur started in 2003, James experienced similar horrors with the civil war that tore apart his home in southern Sudan.
Separated from his parents, he was a member of the Lost Boys, a group of young refugees forced from their villages. This group with an average age between 5 and 9 was forced to wander hundreds of miles through the African wilderness, thousands of them dying along the way.
"We were 5 to 9 (years old), and we had to find food, a place to sleep, without our parents," said James. "It's very hard to do (at such a young age)."
I'm only 17 years old, but in the span of my short lifetime, there have already been three official genocides and who knows how many unofficial ones. In my 17 years, how many lives were eliminated at the hands of others? The question now is, how many more?
The fact of the matter is that there will always be senseless killing in the world. Genocide unfortunately is an age-old human tradition, and in my lifetime, I will probably be witness to many more.
However, as said at the rally by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "It is our duty as human beings to help our fellow brothers and sisters in need."
While it may seem like there's nothing we can do to help, for the sake of humanity, it's imperative that we don't stop trying.
The Global Day for Darfur was an overwhelming success. The hundreds of thousands that gathered for the rallies all over the world officially raised the attention of the United Nations and the United States. President Bush recently appointed Andrew Natsios as the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan in an address to the UN General Assembly. Bush also implored the UN to act on the recent Security Council resolution authorizing a peacekeeping force in Darfur.
If that's what we can accomplish in just one day, imagine what we can do if we keep working continuously. By human nature, blood will always be shed at the hands of others, but if we are to prove that there is any decency left in our species, it is our duty to help those in need. People are still hurting in Darfur; people are still dying, even as you're reading this. We cannot just sit back as our fellow brothers and sisters are massacred.
Ethan Rafal, a journalist who recently returned from a trip to Darfur and Eastern Chad where he was detained and jailed, said at the rally, "As long as we are human, as long as there are human rights violations in Darfur, we must act!"
Genocide might always be around, but as long as we are here to make noise and protest, we'll soon be able to put an end to it.
(Vivian Ho is a Westborough High School senior.)
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