The humanitarian crisis enveloping the people of Darfur, Sudan, has prompted members of Congress to introduce legislation calling on America to pray for an end to genocide and bring about lasting peace.
The legislation supports the goals and ideals of the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan, an initiative organized by the Save Darfur Coalition. The scheduled days of prayer will be from July 15 to 17.
The submitted House of Representatives statement declares:
"Whereas it is appropriate … be it resolved that the House of Representatives encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan”
Senate Resolution 172 was introduced on June 16 and House Resolution 333 was introduced on June 20. The legislation was referred to committees within each congressional chamber.
The latest developments concerning Darfur involve talks between rebel groups and the government with the help of African Union (AU) mediators.
Mediators say they they are making slow progress towards agreeing on a declaration of principles, although infighting by rebel groups is threatening to call into question the value of any agreement, according to Reuters.
The two main rebel groups are the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice Equality Movement. The AU has refused to be drawn in to the internal affairs of the rebel movements.
"What we want is to hear one voice per movement," said an AU spokesperson on Tuesday.
In other Darfur news, the United Nations announced the results of a survey showing that the number of people dying in Darfur has dropped below crisis levels. The number of daily deaths for every 10,000 people has dropped below the threshold level of 1 to 0.8 from nearly three times that amount at the peak of the crisis last year.
Although aid efforts have been successful in reducing violence so far, U.N. humanitarian coordinator Manuel Aranda Da Silva said that the situation could deteriorate quickly if foreign assistance stops coming.
"Any interruption of the delivery of the humanitarian program due to funding or change in security situation will have a dramatic impact and will provoke a relapse of the situation,"said Da Silva, according to Reuters.
Last year, up to 10,000 people were dying every month in Darfur. Up to two million people have fled to camps in the desert during the 2-1/2 year battle between rebels and government forces.
Also, a senior official for the U.N. refugee agency says it is facing a serious shortfall of funds needed to protect people in the Darfur region. The UNHCR has only collected $3 million of the $31 million it needs for protection work, which ranges from helping rape victims to trying to reconcile embattled communities.
The lack of funding may force the refugee agency to set aside efforts to spread throughout Darfur to improve the effectiveness of its operations, according to the SA news agency.
The Darfur conflict has so far claimed between 180,000 and 300,000 lives, mostly civilians, and at least 2.4 million more have fled their homes.
Rape is one of the Darfur conflict's greatest problems. The government and the Arab militias it supports have been using rape as a weapon, according to human rights groups. The UNHCR has been working to create women's shelters in secure areas.
Children are also in precarious situations. Erika Feller, the head of international protection for the UNHCR believes that the problems children face may be underestimated.
The risks they face are not only in the form of sexual, or physical violence but also being forcefully recruited into military service by all sides in the conflict, separation from their families and psychological trauma.
Although monitors have been deployed in the area, creating "pockets of security in west Darfur, Feller warned about complacency.
"The situation has improved. But I don't think one should read into that, that by any means it's an acceptable situation," she said.
The save Darfur coalition encourages people of faith to join many "thousands of others across the nation" to pray for the people in Darfur.
Senate Resolution 172 was submitted on June 16, 2005 by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for himself and one other. It was transferred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
House Resolution 333 was submitted on June 20, 2005 by Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., for himself and eight others. It was transferred to the Committee on International Relations.