You are in a crowded room near home surrounded by your mother, father, aunt and uncle, their kids and some close friends. The doors are locked. You hear men’s voices outside. You know that they have guns. You are scared and wonder, “what is going to happen to me?” Now, you hear banging on the door. You have no delusions about their intentions: they are here to kill you.
The reason? It’s nothing you did. It’s just because of who you are.
You are waiting, hoping, praying for somebody to protect you.
You wish you could call 9-1-1. But this is Darfur. Here, twice the population of Toronto don’t have anyone to call. They face almost certain death, rape, or the loss of an eye or an arm. Many Darfuri men, women, and children hoped for help, but it never came. Like the Armenians in 1910s, Jews during the Holocaust, Cambodians in 1970s, Rwandans and victims of Srebrenica in 1990s they have been left alone.
The results have been devastating.
“The story of the eldest girl who was sent to get needed firewood for her mother and young brother, but was raped”, “The story of the young boy who awoke in his hut to the roar of engines, only to look outside and see family and friends running from bombs and armed men on horseback” and “The story of the woman hearing ‘now your babies will be Arab’ as she’s being violated” are a stories that paint a picture of life as a victim of genocide.
These stories are maddening. The images of these people’s experiences sear into our minds. If you believe, as I do, that no man or woman should be a target simply because of his or her ethnicity, that every children born into this world should never have to see men on horseback rape their mother and kill their father, that no person should ever be victim of genocide sixty years after the “lesson” of the Holocaust, then these actions are an affront to your beliefs.
These attacks against your entire worldview, stir your emotions. You feel, as I do, sadness, fear, rage and most importantly an urgency to “do something” about it.
But – unfortunately for victims – too often, our outrage is followed by a sense of helplessness. I experienced this four years ago. I was riled after reading a story in the New York times about a woman who was told ‘now your babies will be impure’ while being raped. But I was stuck.
“What can I do? This is a genocide – the crime of all crimes. This is happening so far away. The situation seems so complicated. The names of key players are hardly pronounceable. “
“Yes,” we say, “people are dying. But it is so big and so far away. I have to work today and pay my bills. What can one person actually do?”
We all get stuck.
This is the true challenge that the world faces with Darfur: how can we, the mass of people who care about Darfur, overcome the set of obstacles that prevent each one of us from acting to end genocide in Darfur?
Collectively, we have the manpower, will, influence, and money to end the crisis. We have put a man on the moon, ended cold wars, defeated fascism in Europe, and freed millions from apartheid in South Africa, and so too we can end a genocide. But feelings of apathy and powerlessness, a lack of information and motivation prevent us from tapping our world-changing potential.
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