This time I have not adapted well to the difference in time zones. It has been three days since I arrived, and I’m still very awake during the nights and in to the morning. My mac tells me that it’s 8:43pm back home in California, but here it’s 4:43am. It feels a lot more like 8:43pm to me.
Today, well actually yesterday, we visited Bryn and Ann at UNHCR. Visiting with Ann has been a regular stop during our last trips, so it’s a little sad to hear that she’s changing to another post, in Tunis. I’m also excited for her, though. As she said, she thrives on change and new challenges, and I know that Tunis and the whole region will benefit so much from having her.
One thing that she said during our talk is that we cannot allow the being ok with business as usual attitude creep in to our personal availability to respond to tough situations like Darfur, Chad, and the region. For some months now, I have been talking with my team and anyone that will listen about how we, the people active in the movement, cannot allow ourselves to forget the urgency of the situation that the Darfuri people are living each moment that the world allows these atrocities to go on.
I understand how hard it is to sustain high energy and intensity for days, weeks, months, and years. But, if us, those of us that feel a part of this first-ever anti-genocide movement, do not embrace the responsibility and commitment to urgent action that being aware of what is happening entails, then who will embrace it?
The theme for World Refugee Day (June 20) is “Protection.” Our team has been really focusing on that word and what it means in the context of the Darfur region. UNHCR is doing an amazing job at protecting refugees and internally displaced people. They keep them alive and provide basic services. What they do is monumental in scale, and that is protection.
From another perspective, the concept of protection is also monumental but in how absent it is. Innocent civilians see their villages destroyed. Men and boys are killed. Women and girls are raped. Families starve. Millions live in conditions that we would not accept for our pets in the United States. In this sense, protection is a huge shadow everyone sees and knows should exist but in reality no one can feel or grasp.
From my first visit to the camps, “Protection” and “Home” have been the two words that I hear the most. On that first i-ACT trip in 2005, I mentioned to the team that the concept of “Home” should be our general theme. All the people that we met wanted to go back home. Home was still so fresh to them. The girls told us of the river outside of their village and of telling stories under a tree. The boys told us of dancing and playing football. Home felt so near, but they could not get there without protection.
On our last i-ACT trip in February, home felt far. It was clear that the people we met were losing hope about returning and mentioned the need for protection almost out of habit, but nor really believing it can come. They don’t stay down for long, though. They make us feel welcomed, and they shine with energy and pride. Their children is what keeps them going and hearing about people in a far away place working tirelessly to get them back home makes them smile and sometimes cry.
I just scrolled up and saw how long this has gone, and my intention was just to write a little something that might make me sleepy. That didn’t work, but I’ll stop and see if I close my eyes for at least a couple of hours.
One last thing to those of you that also feel a part of this movement, let’s push each other to do more, be more creative, stay energized, and not let “business as usual” creep in to our movement until our brothers and sisters from Darfur have protection and return home.