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Webcast, Hunger Strike, Other Events Mark Aug. 25 Sudan Conscience Day
August 26, 2004, NEW YORK CITY - A national hunger strike, Webcast and media teleconference with survivors of the genocide in Sudans Darfur region, along with at least 50 local events across the United States (pictured: Indianapolis), marked Wednesdays National Day of Conscience on Darfur (Aug. 25).
The National Council of Churches USA and more than 100 other faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations in the Save Darfur Coalition co-sponsored the National Day of Conscience to dramatize their plea for U.S. and international intervention in the Darfur crisis, which already has displaced 1.5 million, has left nearly 200,000 dead and is costing an estimated 2,500 more lives every day from violence, disease and starvation.
Government-backed militias, known as the Janjaweed, have been engaging in campaigns to displace and wipe out entire communities of tribal farmers. Villages have been razed, women and girls systematically raped and branded, men and boys murdered, and food and water supplies specifically targeted and destroyed. Government aerial bombardments support the Janjaweed by hurling explosives as well as barrels of nails, car chassis and old appliances from planes to crush people and property. Only in the past few weeks have humanitarian agencies had limited access to a portion of the affected region.
The Aug. 25 live Webcast originated from Breijing refugee camp in Chad, just across the border from Sudan, and gave viewers the opportunity to ask questions of a survivor of the Darfur genocide. More than 3,000 people signed up to participate.
Participants saw satellite pictures of camp life, including the makeshift plastic cover shelters of new arrivals, queues for food and several hundred of the camp's 45,000 children and adults who had gathered around the on-the-ground camera crew from the Global Nomads Group, with host Mark Von Sponek.
Questions from U.S. viewers poured in by email: "What happened to you? What can we do to help?" Alhaj Abdallah Adam from the village of Toulouse, Sudan, a refugee and representative of one of the camp's "blocks," described how air and ground attacks by Sudanese government and Janjaweed militia destroyed his home village and scattered its several thousand residents "just because we are Black. 150 of us are here in this camp," he said. "I don't know what happened to the others." Among the missing: his entire family.
Nicole Henze, working in the camp with Doctors Without Borders, said between 200 and 400 new refugees are arriving in Breijing camp every day. She said the camps health clinic is seeing 120 to 140 patients a day, mostly for diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition. Said Adam, "All of us are getting sick now, for example with malaria - it is rainy season." One hundred children are being treated for severe malnutrition, Henze said.
Asked what Americans can do to help, Henze and Adam urged people to raise awareness about the Darfur crisis, press the U.S. government and international community to act now to stop the killing, and contribute to humanitarian organizations that are providing aid. (The Web sites www.faithfulamerica.org and www.darfurgenocide.org, among others, include information about both aid and advocacy efforts.)
Wednesdays Webcast was made possible by TrueMajority and FaithfulAmerica.org members, who donated funds to send a camera crew to the camps. The Webcast was followed by a media teleconference with Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power, former White House advisor John Prendergast and with Mr. Adam from the camp in Chad.
National Day of Conscience activities also included a hunger strike organized by online advocacy groups TrueMajority, FaithfulAmerica.org and DarfurGenocide.org. More than 3,000 people in all 50 states signed up to dramatize their plea for urgent U.S. and international intervention in the Darfur crisis.
The Day of Conscience was the latest effort in a campaign to pressure the U.S. and other governments to intervene in Sudan. Earlier this summer, activist groups sent over 200,000 faxes, messages and phone calls to Congress on the eve of a vote on two Sudan resolutions, and held a 1,000-person "die-in" in front of the White House. Daily demonstrations and civil disobedience at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., have included the arrests of several religious leaders, including NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar; members of Congress, and prominent personalities - on Wednesday, actor Danny Glover.
"Everyone is desperate to stop a re-run of Rwanda," said Ricken Patel, Co-Director of FaithfulAmerica.org. "People feel personally affected by this crime against our brothers and sisters in Sudan, and arent settling for anything less than intervention to stop the killing."
Pictured: Dr. Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, speaks out against genocide in Sudan during an interfaith prayer vigil in downtown Indianapolis. Rabbi Jon Adland of the Jewish community stands behind Syeed. They are flanked by others from the city's Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities. United Methodist Church News Service photo.
Stories about local observances Aug. 25:
Indiana faith groups gathered to show unity against genocide in Sudan: http://www.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=5576
Minnesota Council of Churches -- http://www.mnchurches.org -- story to be posted soon
NCC Media Contact: Carol Fouke, 212-870-2252; firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
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