UST's Genocide Intervention Network joins rally at State Capitol

The Genocide Intervention Network rallied for Darfur at the Minnesota State Capitol.

UST's Genocide Intervention Network joins rally at State Capitol

By David Blomquist,
Intern for the service-learning department

Twenty members of the St. Thomas chapter of the Genocide Intervention Network joined a rally outside of the Minnesota State Capitol on April 30 to urge the U.S. government to take action in Darfur, a war-torn region of Sudan.

Legislators, members of the Twin Cities faith community and people from Sudan spoke to the crowd of about 1,000 people, but their speeches all had a similar theme: The United States must take action immediately.

“It’s time to stop the killing; it’s time to start the healing,” Rep. Betty McCollum said.

About 400,000 Sudanese have been killed since February 2003, millions have been displaced, and many are starving as a result of a conflict between the government-funded Arab militia, the Janjaweed, and black African rebels.

Steps have been made to stop the violence, but fighting continues. The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have passed legislation that allows for increased intervention in Darfur. The Sudanese government is willing to sign a peace agreement with the rebels, but the rebels are hesitant to sign it until they know how the provisions will be implemented.

There have been backward steps, as well. The United Nations cut food rations to Darfur in half because of funding shortages. According to a U.N. nutrition survey, four families in five still depend on food aid. As a result, more families will starve, and the death toll could increase.

Eric Markuson of the Danish Center for Genocide Studies at Copenhagen spoke about his interviews with Sudanese genocide survivors. By talking with the survivors, Markuson said, he found that conditions in Sudan were not getting better; they were actually getting worse. International aid organizations have pulled out of Sudan because they faced too much danger, he said. And with the reduced food rations, conditions will continue to worsen.

But Markuson offered hope. “The first genocide of the 21st century can be stopped,” he said.

How can it be stopped?

“It’s up to us to make our friends, family and countrymen care about this issue,” Rep. Steve Simon said. People need to call their senators and representatives and tell them to make the Sudanese genocide a priority, he said.

Rabbi Simeon Glaser of Temple Israel said, “The miracles are ours to perform. God’s hands are our hands.” He also stressed the importance of telling everyone about the genocide.

“Are you prepared to never stop talking about it (the genocide) until the atrocities end?” Simon asked the crowd.

Sophomore Erin Maye, a board member of the St. Thomas chapter of the Genocide Intervention Network, arranged for a bus to take network members to the rally.

“So often atrocities in the developing world are dismissed, but I feel that a genocide anywhere is a genocide everywhere,” Maye said. “If there are people being systematically slain for their ethnicity, it is everyone's responsibility to step in and stop it.”

The president of the network, Sarah Hogan, said she had never attended a rally before, but the genocide in Sudan was a very important issue.

“Encouraging action on the part of my government is the least I can do for people who are suffering so terribly from their own government,” she said.

The St. Thomas chapter of the Genocide Intervention Network has participated in a national campaign to send 1 million postcards to President George W. Bush urging action in Sudan. By tabling near the St. Thomas cafeterias, network members collected about more than 500 letters and postcards signed by students. The network also sponsored public events to raise awareness about the genocide.

The St. Paul rally was one of many held in the United States and Canada on April 30 to urge action in Sudan. Thousands rallied on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and listened to speakers, including Sen. Barack Obama and actor George Clooney.

All the rallies sent a similar message, a message that is best expressed in the words of Glaser: “Don’t stand by when your neighbor bleeds.”

For more information about the Genocide Intervention Network, e-mail Sarah Hogan or Dr. Ellen Kennedy, adviser.