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.
The job of each of our volunteers, supporters, and allies: make it easy to act against genocide. Make it easy to overcome the challenges – one by one – to help each person that feels “I must do something about Darfur”. Help them take action.
If it isn’t easy for you to make your difference for Darfur, we’ll make it so.
Feel powerless to make a difference?
We are there to tell you that you can. The Stand volunteer on your campus will tell you stories to convince you so. We will share stories of meeting the Prime Minister, of Canada sending 100 armoured personnel carriers to protect those protecting civilians, of students traveling to Darfur with Members of Parliament to forever make them allies in our fight. You can make a difference.
Don’t know where to start?
A Stand volunteer can show you how easy it is to begin to make a difference. You can start by meeting like-minded friends in your community through Stand – in-person or online. You can work on a project of significance to Darfur: plan a rally to put Darfur’s story in the headlines, invite your Member of Parliament to meet your group, create a calendar to raise money for the cause. Thousands of people have attended hundreds of events put on by dozens of groups from communities across Canada. The net impact is obvious: each new voice can inspire an action for the cause. Each action may be the one to tip the scale towards life for a Darfuri teetering on the brink. You can have impact with Stand.
Don’t have the time?
Everybody has three minutes to act against genocide. Call 1-800-GENOCID(E). Get talking points about what Canada can do for Darfur. And leave a message for the Prime Minister. Each call to 1-800-GENOCIDE moves Darfur up the list of issues important to the Prime Minister. One high school in Toronto called the Prime Minister’s office so many times in one day, that the Office called the principal of the school and asked students to stop calling. Thankfully, the principal told them no. That day, the Prime Minister noticed Darfur. A few minutes can make a difference for Darfur.
Want to call your MP right now but don’t know what to say?
Read Stand’s Darfur Digest. Just by glancing at the executive summary, you can know more about Darfur than 95% of MPs and have the confidence to voice your opinion about what’s right for Canada to do to prevent on-going genocide in Darfur. It is read by high school students and national not-for-profit CEOs, and everybody in between. A few minutes can make you an effective advocate.
Consider a world without Stand and its allies. People read about Darfur. We are “educated” about it. We care, but our engagement stops there. The world would exist with a massive gap: a body of people who need help in Darfur, and a mass of people who care about Darfur but feel helpless. In that world, millions fall victim to genocide in Darfur, and the next Darfur in Asia, or South America or Africa. The idea “never again” dies along with the hope of a generation.
Stand bridges that gap, making it easy for those caring people to act against genocide in Darfur and wherever else it may next appear.
Back to that crowded room with armed men pounding at the door. Darfuris don’t have 9-1-1. But we have 1-800-GENOCIDE. Let’s keep calling on their behalf until we create a world free of genocide.