Michael Perry, OFM, coordinator of the Africa Desk of Franciscans International has asked that the text below be distributed among the friars, according to Russell Testa, HNP’s animator for justice and peace. Mike encourages friars to announce this in their ministry sites and to encourage people to become involved.
The Save Darfur Coalition is sponsoring a series of peace rallies in September calling on the international community to put additional pressure on the government in Khartoum to bring an end to its reign of terror against innocent civilians in the region of Darfur, western Sudan. More than 400,000 people have died and another 300,000 face the immediate prospects of hunger and starvation, Mike said.
Darfur is the size of France and has a population of more than six million residents. The war, which began in 2002 as a local revolt by farmers and other groups protesting the failure of the government to respect their rights and provide protection against marauding Arab raiding groups, continues unabated. In May 2006 the government and the main rebel group signed the Dafur Peace Agreement (DPA), but neither they nor the other rebel groups and government-supported militias have respected the agreement.
In recent months, the government has progressively blocked international humanitarian relief agencies from delivering urgently needed food and medical supplies to innocent civilians who have been forcibly displaced, Mike said. Rebel groups also have committed atrocities against innocent civilians and have not respected ceasefire agreements.
On Aug. 31, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1706 calling for the immediate deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force with full authority to protect innocent civilians. Since that time, the government of Sudan has stepped up its military actions in the region, proposed its own plan for providing peace and security — a veiled plan to increase its military strength and undertake a fully militarized operation — and has threatened to fight any UN peacekeeping soldiers. For the past two years, the Africa Union has provided a minimum force of about 7,000 soldiers to serve as peacekeepers and provide some protection to the civilian populations. The government in Khartoum has now threatened to force the exit of these African units should the United Nations proceed with the execution of the Security Council resolution.
Below are suggestions of what can be done:
1. Inform people in our parishes, educational institutions and other partners about the crisis in Darfur. Encourage them to visit the web site of the Save Darfur Coalition, which is supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Franciscans International, to name but a few of the more than 200 religious and humanitarian members.
2. Urge people to write a simple letter to President Bush at the White House urging him to do three things:
a) use diplomatic pressure to urge the U.N. Security Council, China, Russia, the European Union, Nigeria, the Arab League and other nations to use diplomatic means to pressure the government in Khartoum to accept UN Security Resolution 1706 calling for the immediate dispatch of a U.N.-led peacekeeping operation in Darfur; b) name a Special Envoy to Sudan and to the region (Chad, northern Uganda) to demonstrate the resolve of the U.S. government to bring an end to genocide in Darfur, ensure protection of innocent civilians, encourage all parties to the conflict — the government and the rebel forces — to respect ceasefire agreements and to pursue a political solution to the conflict; and c) provide additional financial support for the current mission of the Africa Union while awaiting transfer of the peacekeeping operation in Darfur to the United Nations’ blue helmets.
3. Call members of Congress and urge them to speak out on Darfur; urge President Bush to keep Darfur at the top of U.S. foreign policy, and
4. Pray for the people of Darfur; join with others in your local areas in scheduled rallies and other gatherings; join the Save Darfur Coalition; provide financial assistance for those who have been internally displaced or who are refugees in neighboring Chad orother African countries.
Further information about the rally sites can be obtained by contacting Mike Perry or Alison Jones at 212-490-4624 (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)