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Do We Care About Sudan?

By Dr. Bruce C. Swaffield
Professor, Regent University One million people are dying – a number equal to a major city in the United States.

Imagine everyone in a single metropolis suffering from famine, disease and the effects of war.

Despite such an immediate tragedy in Africa, world leaders are debating what to do to help.

So far, up to 30,000 people have died since the crisis began 15 months ago. In February 2003, an uprising by rebel groups was met with resistance from Sudanese forces and affiliated Arab militia. As a result, more than a million persons from black African tribes fled their homes in Darfur after being attacked by Arab Janjaweed troops.

The United States wants to help. Both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring that genocide is taking place in western Sudan.

Britain wants to help. A London newspaper said recently that Prime Minister Tony Blair was planning to deploy British troops to the area, but Blair later labeled the report as “premature.”

The United Nations wants to help. The UN Security Council plans to pass a resolution threatening sanctions against the Sudanese Government.

But Sudan says it doesn’t want or need help.

“We don’t need any UN resolutions,” says Mustafa Osman Ismail,
Sudan’s Foreign Minister. “Any resolutions from the Security Council will complicate things.”

“This pressure closely resembles the increased pressure that was put on Iraq before the war,” Ismail added.

According to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, “Once they do what is right, the meddling will stop.”

Meanwhile, up to one million persons are dying. They cannot wait for proper diplomacy, formal negotiations or government resolutions to be fed, to be housed or to be treated from their illnesses. Their need is immediate.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says that next month he plans to visit the area where the refuges live in tent cities. But what will he find? How many more will die in the next two weeks or even in the next two days?

How would each one of us feel if we had to wait for help when we were hungry, homeless and sick?

We need to urge our government and the UN to take action now. We must take care of our brothers and sisters in Africa just as we would want them to help us in a time of similar disaster.

If the government of Sudan will not allow other countries to bring in food, water and medical supplies, then we need to bring a forcible end to this genocide.

There will be plenty of time later to discuss whether the Arab militia, in cooperation with the Sudanese government, is carrying out a plan of ethnic cleansing against black Africans. There will be time later, too, to decide whom to punish with diplomatic sanctions.

What matters right now is saving these people. We have to act first and talk later. One way or another, by peace or force, all of us have a responsibility to see that these suffering people are treated in a civilized and humane manner.

At this tragic time, it would help each one of us to remember the words of George Washington Carver: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all these.”

What happens to these one million people in Sudan will show the world who we are and what we stand for in the United States.

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Bruce Swaffield is a professor in the Regent University School of Journalism in the the College of Communication. He welcomes your e-mail comments.

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