"Do not stand idly by. Save Darfur."
More than once a person has looked at this statement printed on the green wristband that I wear on my right arm. Usually, they read it unenthusiastically and then disregard it. But occasionally, someone asks what it means, and I am quick to respond with a brief description of what is going on in Sudan. I know many people couldn't care less about my almost rehearsed plea to help to stop the genocide. Yet I will not stand idly by while so many others do.
There are so many issues and problems in the world. How does one know what to focus on? Why do we, in the United States, need to worry about this faraway region of Africa, which is just part of a larger continent of peoples who also need our money and support?
The answer is simple, really. We have witnessed genocide before. And by the time the people of the world took notice, there were 6 million Jews dead.
Knowing this should give us, as Jews, all the more reason to make a difference in Darfur. The Holocaust was tragic, unfair and a huge test of faith both to Jews and to other religious people. Today, there is absolutely no reason to watch another community suffer the same way we did.
The truth is that the way in which the government of Sudan and regional leaders are dealing with economic, political and ethnic-based conflict is disgusting. The Arab-Africans and non-Arab Africans are fighting over water and land, letting scarce resources and ethnic hatred push them into a Civil War that they cannot end on their own.
Why should we make Darfur our problem? Why shouldn't we? Where does society come off in thinking that refugees, and the diseased, and the starved, and those harassed by the Janjaweed can save themselves? Since when has stopping mass murder been put on the to-do list of the world unless we as citizens make it so?
Some 400,000 people have died since February 2003, when all this began. And about 100 more die everyday. More than 2 million have been forced to leave their homes.
Why are 80 percent of Darfur children under the age of 5 suffering from severe malnutrition? Why are women and girls being raped? Why are children getting abducted and watching their villages burn to the ground? Why are water supplies being poisoned?
Because no one is stopping it.
What can we do?
First, pass on the information.
Write to your newspapers and your aunts in Idaho. Buy a bracelet; wear it proud. Wear a T-shirt. Give a T-shirt. Take every opportunity you have to tell a neighbor or a classmate. Volunteer with Jewish World Watch to educate more people about the conditions.
If every person in America knew about this genocide, something would be done about it.
Do not wait for a movie to come out years from now about how awful it all was. Don't you dare. Because now you know. And you have no excuse.
Do not stand idly by. Save Darfur.
Laura Donney is a freshman at the Hamilton High School Academy of Music and a volunteer for Jewish World Watch (www.jewishworldwatch.org.)
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