Darfur: peace on earth?

Columnist : Albert Paschall

In the ancient book of Revelation it is written: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.  And was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

Trying to pick the sorriest spot on this sorry planet is a tough call.  You have the famine ridden people of North Korea with a government that’s on a path to nuclear suicide. Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon are good candidates but the Darfur region in the Sudan has got to top the list.

We Americans don’t seem to understand sub-Sahara Africa.  Our TV images are primitive, violent, chaos.  After our disastrous intervention in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 we seem to rather close our collective eyes to the utter disaster that the region is.

While the Sudanese and US Governments, along with the United Nations seemingly spending more time estimating how many people have died in Darfur since a civil war broke out in 2003, somewhere between 70,000 and 200,000 people have perished.  The region is gripped in famine and the squalor of sub-equatorial heat.

Since the war began more than 2.5 million people have left their homes.  That’s a million more people than live in Philadelphia.  World aid agencies attempt to provide some relief to the 200,000 lost souls camped in neighboring Chad, but can’t possibly cope with what has become televised genocide.

Darfuris are routinely slaughtered wondering like nomads from camp to camp in search of bare essentials.  Food, water, medicine are all in short supply.

The rebels murder innocent Darfuri women and children every day.  Called janjaweed militia or devil men, their favorite form of execution is to ambush on horseback, tie the refugees together, pour gasoline on them and burn them to death.  A slow, heinous slaughter.

A sweetheart of a dictator, Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, seems to look for ways to blame vague outside forces for the problem.  Al Bashir likes to claim that these outside forces are out to topple his government because of its Islamic views.  It wouldn’t have anything to do with $5 billion in new oil revenue that Bashir and his cronies are tied into.  Their main customer, The People’s Republic of China, is protecting their interests at the United Nations with a Security Council veto.  Not that the United Nations has been particularly effective in the region either.  It just seems to spend most of its resources competing with the US and Sudanese estimated body counts.

The ignorance and indifference of the US and western European governments to the 21st century’s first holocaust is a shame that should scar our collective conscience.  We can only pray this Yuletide season that the song of another angel will someday soon bring its grace to these afflicted, tortured people: “Peace on earth to people of good will.”

There is something you can do to help ease the suffering in Darfur.  Write a check.  Two American agencies have a strong presence in the region.  World Vision Sudan Fund can be reached at 888-511-6548 or Catholic Services Darfur Relief at 800-736-3467.  May you and yours enjoy all the best of this season of light.

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.