The New Year is a great time for looking back and then moving forward. I have to admit, when the year began and I doubted myself, questioning my actions and efforts. A lot of my free time is spent reading and writing letters about human rights issues, death penalty cases, genocide in Darfur, and maintaining my Save Darfur website. After years of efforts you begin to question whether or not signing petitions, writing letter to congressional representatives, attending rallies, and raising awareness really makes a difference. It's not like I took up arms and died for human rights. In the end I cling to hope. I have to believe that I will make a difference somehow.
Last year I attended (as volunteer and participant) an event in San Antonio which was held to raise awareness about the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan. I thought there would be a huge turnout being that one of the groups hosting the event was STAND (A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition). That wasn't the case. Including volunteers, participants, and speakers, there were probably 25 people attending. I could go on and describe the many details of that morning, but I'll just point out this one thing. We stood there and listened to stories from genocide survivors of the holocaust, Rwanda, a Sudanese from Congo, and a Sudanese from the Darfur region. To add to their disturbing stories was that there were just twenty Americans there to listen to their stories. It was heart wrenching that they were there describing horrific events in their lives to help us understand what genocide is and to inspire us to act and put an end to the first genocide of the 21st century and there were so few people there to listen, to learn. It's been several years that Sudan has been apart of my life. I try to educate family and friends about what is taking place there. I read as much as I can, maintain a website dedicated to Darfur, watch documentaries on the subject. Sometimes I can deal with what I read/watch, sometimes it's overwhelming. On the day of the rally, it was overwhelming. I have a child now. I try to place myself in their shoes so that I don't lose site of what's important. This should not be happening. This genocide can be stopped.
My recent experience with Sudanese refugees was just last week. I attended a forum given by STAND. Daniel Garang, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" was the speaker. Lost Boys of Sudan is a name given by aid organizers to the more than 27,000 displaced and/or orphaned during the second Sudanese Civil War (1984-2005, about 2 million killed). Again, the crowd was small, but my experience was intense and overwhelming. I sat in the front row and I listened.
Daniel's mother and father were murdered when he was just six years old. He fled to the forest where he joined other children. He didn't know what direction to go, so he just ran, and ran, and ran. His month long journey of hunger, thirst and search for safety led to the Ethiopia border where he was taken in and cared for at a refugee camp. He said he thought he was going to die, but this is when God saved him.
War began to affect Ethiopia four years later and he had to flee once again. They walked for days, many dying along the way. They reached a town in Sudan where the children lived in hunger drinking only water until they received help again. 6 months later gunmen forced them to flee again. They walked for months before reaching Kenya where he lived for eight years. Then, he was brought to America where he now lives in Houston, Texas.
He shares his story of loss and pain with the hope that we will help the people of Sudan. All they want is peace in their land.
I heard his experience and listened to another refugee, a husband/father who just recently arrived to Houston from Darfur. Personally, this experience was good for me. I don't know what the others in the room will do with the information they received. My hope is that they will act. While I listened to Daniel, he looked into my eyes and said, "Everything you do matters. Every little thing makes a difference." Tears filled my eyes many times that night, but that moment hit hard.
For years, I didn't know if I'd find my calling, or more specifically, if I had a calling. This is my calling. I hear the voices of the people of Darfur. I can't escape the images of their children or the knowledge of what's been done to them. The people of Darfur once lived a simple life. That's what they want back. It's not asking for a lot, just what was rightfully theirs.
While Daniel spoke I imagined my own child at age six going through this life Daniel had to endure. It's difficult listening to these stories. It's difficult watching the documentaries. It's difficult being here, where it's safe, while children are starving and dying in Africa. This is all very difficult for me and I cried the whole way home after listening to Daniel and the others. It's like they are my family. This is how personal this issue is to me. I can't explain it. I can't live my life without Africa apart of it. There is so much work to be done in Sudan, Congo, and Chad. I hope somehow, if you are reading this, you too will be affected. No one deserves this kind of life.
Peace. Don't sleep.
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