Drop off the dog. Pick up the last of our food. Get a coffee. I am running the last of our errands for the trip, my sixth and Gabriel’s ninth. An American music teacher is speaking on NPR about his students at the Kabul Music Academy in Afghanistan. The reporter asks what kinds of students he has, and the teacher begins to describe an unthinkable childhood. I am overwhelmed and tears fall from my eyes. I can’t believe I am returning.
This coming year marks the seventh since the United States declared Darfur a genocide, eight since it began in 2003. During this time, the children of Darfur have survived unthinkable scenarios.
The culture of the Darfuri people has been changed forever. As Armenians say, “Genocide is in our blood,” and so too will the generations of Darfuris to come. The children of Darfur, many of whom have spent more than half their life in a refugee or IDP camp have not had the chance to sow their land, harvest a bountiful crop, or celebrate their traditional culture at home for far too long. I fear the memories of their peaceful homeland are on the verge of being permanently replaced by the memories of the attacks on their homes and families. With each passing year, they are losing bits and pieces of their culture, and probably entire traditions.
I fight the tears back and think of the smiling faces of Amouna, Ali, Khadija, and their mothers Dajhima, Achta, Fatma, and Fatne. I am lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to hold their hands and listen to their stories. It’s been so long since they walked to their village market to trade vegetables and fruits from their land. Years since their sons have taken the herd of goats out to graze. Too long since they have felt peace. The stories of the vicious attacks ripple through me. Their scars will never fade. And until there is peace and justice, future generations will bear them also.
My hope remains and I begin to think of the sister schools we will be connecting, and the technology we will be leaving. All the soccer balls, volley balls, and t-shirts we will deliver. This trip will be difficult, but I know it will help forge a way forward to a better Darfur.