Dear friends and family:
It was in December of 2004, when I first sent out one of these e-mails talking about Darfur. It went out to my family and a couple of friends, a total of recipients that stayed in the single digits. Pretty much all it said was, “Have you heard about what is happening in a place called Darfur!?”
Darfur sounded far away, and I felt insignificant in what I could to, when seeing the magnitude of the horrors and the statistics. As I got closer to the story, met the people, and heard their voice, I ignored my internal voice that told me “you can’t do anything about it” and just started doing. It started so small, but by December of 2005, I was walking in a refugee camp with about ten children holding each of my hands.
The International Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for Sudan President al Bashir, As expected, his response was to unleash once again an intense hell for innocent civilians in a place that has been hellish for over six years. Aid agencies are now being expelled from the country, and the army and Janjaweed are terrorizing the Darfuri towns and displacement camps.
The statistics are, again, horrific. More than one million are in imminent danger, with very limited supplies. Millions more are next in line to face starvation, lack of water and medical services. Diarrhea and meningitis threaten to become major killers in this nightmare that is picking up speed.
New York Times columnist, Nick Kristoff, has said that, from what his sources tell him, there are Two weeks to the Darfur Epidemic:
within a period of less than two weeks 1.1 million people will need food; within a period of less than two weeks 1.2 million people will need water; within a period of less than two weeks 1.5 million people will be without access to health services; within a period of less than two weeks 760,000 people will not have shelter at the beginning of the rainy season; within one week water supplies in most camps will not be operational; within two-three weeks, you may have a widespread diarrhea epidemic in the camps due to the lack of water and services and potentially unrest in the camps; within one month you are likely to have a mass movement of people from camps without NGOs to camps with NGOs.
These numbers, which are probably conservative, again made me feel small and made me feel guilty. As a part of a historical movement to stop genocide, I feel that we have failed to act to avert the disaster we saw coming from miles away. The movement continued with business as usual and was not willing to demonstrate the outrage required to push our leaders towards action.
I am right now sitting next to a tent outside of the Federal building in Los Angeles. It is 2:08am. We are staying here and more will come tomorrow and throughout the weekend and in to this coming week. It has to be the start of a new level of activism for us in LA but also for others across the country. We must stand for justice in Darfur, and we must stand for protection of innocent civilians. As we heard over and over again at the camps on our last visit, peace and justice must come together; they are both part of the same.
In a little more than a week, we’ll also be sitting next to tents, but in a refugee camp close to the Chad/Darfur border. You’ll get to hear from the people of Darfur yourselves. Don’t wait to act, though. Come out and join us. Let’s get together and be loud in our outrage! This e-mail now goes out to more than single digit recipients, but we are still a small community. Let’s be as loud as if we were millions, so that millions can stay alive.
I am now asking you to make a commitment for Darfur.