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May 3, 2006
Column #1,288
Advance for May 6, 2006
"NEVER AGAIN.  NEVER AGAIN."
By Michael J. McManus

WASHINGTON The perceived enemies of Muslims are Jews and Americans. Yet Sunday, 100,000 Americans traveled great distances to the Washington Mall to protest the genocide of 300,000 Muslims in Darfur, Sudan.

Four out of five people I interviewed in the crowd were Jewish.

Rebecca Portney, 15, asserted, "I came because I am Jewish. In the Holocaust, which happened to Jews, no one stood up for them.  It is important that we stand up for the Darfurians." Nicole Shawny, another teenager, added "My grandparents and a lot of family were killed in the Holocaust. I do not want it to happen again."

One of the first speakers at the rally in front of the U.S. Capitol was Rabbi David Saperstein who explained that Reform Judaism, Southern Baptists and the National Council of Churches are visiting the consulates of NATO and African countries to win support for a peacekeeping force with a three-year mandate to provide security. He led the crowd in a chant with echos of the Holocaust, "Never Again,  NEVER AGAIN."

Many prominent Christians lent their voices to the cause. Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, opened the rally with a prayer. "Lord, we pray you will convict the world's leaders on this issue. Prick their consciences to understand the imperative to act."

The U.S. has appropriated $123 million for Darfur relief and peacekeeping, and Congress recently voted to add $50 million to strengthen the African Union Peacekeeping Force. By comparison, only three European countries have appropriated $1 million each. The UN has agreed to send peacekeepers, but they will not arrive until fall.

Sudan can block the UN effort. Therefore, the US is leading negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria with all parties: Sudan, various rebel groups who are seeking both political power and financial support, and representatives of many nations.

Cizik acknowledged US leadership but said, "We have to ask ourselves why hasn't the killing stopped?  Administration leaders say they want to do good and not just feel good.  If you really want to good, let's get those NATO troops. None have to be Americans. They can come from  Bangladesh, Jordan, Turkey and others can play the role there."

Rabbi Steve Gutrow, Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the crowd, "Children are dying in Darfur.  What for?  What for? Enough is enough. Say it with me." Tens of thousands shouted "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."

"God is weeping. Where is Western Europe? Where is Africa? Where are the countries of the earth? Enough is enough. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."

Dr. A. Rashied Omar, a Muslim professor at Notre Dame, cried out, "Muslims of Darfur are facing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Muslims can no longer deny or turn a blind eye to this suffering... More than 40 mosques have been destroyed...Our first obligation as Muslims is to add our voices to those insisting that the Sudanese government disarm and disband the Janjawid (armed militia who are the rapists and killers), and that it provide full access for humanitarian workers."

However, Muslim countries have been silent.

James Zogby of the Arab American Institute recalled the litany of previous slaughters:  The Holocaust, Hiroshima, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bellfast, Beruit, Sarajevo places seared into the mind. We must demand an end to injustice. Action must be taken to protect the innocents."

Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, pled: "We can't wait any longer.  It is time to save Darfur," he said to applause. "There are 2.5 million who are starving, 3 million are wandering around who have lost their homes."

Interestingly, it took a politician, not a religious leader to quote Proverbs 24:11: "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter," quoted U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

The atmosphere of the rally was electric. I felt privileged to be there. But what is its ultimate significance?

Cizik recalled meeting in February with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, leader of the Abuja negotiations, telling him that he would give the Administration only a C on Darfur. Zoellick replied, `You have to understand we can't do it alone.'  Pressure from other world leaders is needed. A  rally like this sends a signal not just to our president about what we as an American community believe. It gives him a way to go to other world leaders and say, "I'm under pressure." Indeed, Bush recently phoned Sudan's President, pleading for a resolution.

Politics is interesting and complex. However, the pressure to save Darfur's Muslims is generated by people of faith, led by Jews and Christians.

 
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