Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

July 5, 2004


            Is anyone in your parish talking about Sudan?

Probably not.  Sudan is not very much on America’s radar screen. It should be though.

Why? Because a great crime against humanity is taking place there right now. The crime is “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” depending on your terminology. It is being carried out by official, government-sponsored, thugs known as the Janjaweed. They call themselves a militia. They are, in fact, gangs of criminals. They are backed up by Sudanese government agencies, including government aircraft.

This ethnic cleansing is taking place in the Sudan’s western province of Darfur, a thinly populated expanse of desert and mountains nearly the size of Texas.

Darfur is mainly populated by three black African tribes; the  Fur”, the “Masalit” and the “Zaghawa” tribes.

Like most of the rest of Sudan, they are Moslems. But they are not like their rulers in Khartoum. The people of Darfur are black Africans, while the elites near the capital are mostly lighter skinned Arabs. 

In simplest terms this is racially motivated ethnic cleansing. Light skinned Arabs killing darker skinned blacks. Moslem killing Moslem.

The modus operandi of the Janjaweed, according to press accounts, is simple and horrible. Government planes bomb the villages. The militia, on horseback, go into the villages. They kill or drive out all the men. They systematically rape the women, telling them repeatedly that they are slaves and that they want to make a “light baby.” They then burn the towns to the ground and destroy the fields and crops so that there will be nothing to return to.

The Washington Post reported that more than 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes. Several hundred thousand have fled Sudan altogether into neighboring Chad. There they live in internationally supported refugee camps. The camps are a horrible existence, but, at least, their own government is not attacking them.

Some camps have been set up inside Sudan. These are run by international relief agencies according to press reports. The government has not cooperated in getting food aid to these people. It has, in fact, blocked or stolen food aide.

According to press accounts, it is entirely possible that as many as a million people may starve to death by the end of the year if something is not done to get aid to them before the annual rains come.

In June, Secretary of State Colin Powel and U. N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited some of these internal refugee camps. Both men knew that these were staged visits to show camps, just like the camps the Nazis used for tours by the Red Cross. But even in these “show” camps, the conditions were horrible.

On June 30, the Washington Post reported that there is a systematic campaign of rape against Darfur women, encouraged by the government.

            To date the international community has been reluctant to call this “genocide.” This is because the term is freighted with meaning. Under international law nations must respond if they know that genocide is taking place.

            Only ten years ago, to the shame of the whole world, the international community stood by while half a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda. It was not much on the news until it was too late. It was almost never mentioned in our prayers. It was hardly on our radar screen.

            It is a nightmare to think that it is happening again. In the name of God we should cry out to heaven to stop what is going on in Darfur, Sudan. It is a matter that concerns all believers.

            Why am I writing about it? I don’t want it said that I did not at least raise my voice in protest.