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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA marches for Darfur

    More than 200 high school and UA students and Tucson community members came to the UA Mall last night to hear firsthand accounts from refugees who escaped the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

    Those in attendance wore or held glow sticks in their hands representing “”the fire within”” to affect change as they listened to the speakers helping to educate people on the humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2 million people.

    In Washington, D.C., thousands of people joined celebrities and lawmakers at a rally yesterday urging the Bush administration and Congress to help end genocide in the Darfur region. “”Not on our watch!”” the crowd chanted as a parade of speakers lined up for their turn on a stage on the National Mall, the Capitol serving as a backdrop.

    “”The personal motivation for a lot of us is the Holocaust,”” said Boston-based Rabbi Or Rose of Jewish Seminarians for Justice. “”Given our history and experience, we feel an obligation to stand up and speak out.””

    Many of the speakers in Tucson, including Sarah Gonzales, director of the racial justice program at the Tucson YWCA, said genocide is happening again around the world and the United States and the United Nations are doing little to curb the violence. She compared the tragedy to the Holocaust and thanked the many who came out in support of the cause.

    “”By attending this event, you’re spreading awareness on the situation,”” Gonazles said. “”How can we all not be moved by this response of compassion?””

    Gonzales said the U.S. needs to step up and do more because of recent actions by the U.N. to cut food rations and other appropriations efforts.

    “”Such a crime against humanity affects us all,”” she said.

    Rev. Stuart Taylor of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church started the vigil off with a prayer and said anyone, has the “”right to live without fear and violence,”” no matter what sex, race, religion or creed he is.

    “”While we sit here, this genocide is happening with our full knowledge and on our own watch,”” Taylor said. “”Our actions here tonight speak to a larger global action response that everyone should be proud of.””

    Helping to “”put a face”” on the situation at hand, John Thon Majok, one of the “”Lost Boys of Sudan”” who came to the UA from the war-tattered country in 2001, spoke of how empty rhetoric from politicians and even supporters on the Mall last night doesn’t help bring relief to the indiscriminate killing, raping of women and looting of businesses and homes in Darfur.

    “”As a survivor, I understand the horrors of terror, but many people do not. Think about this, though. Three hundred and fifty people die every day in Darfur,”” Majok said. “”Three hundred and fifty. How many more people dead will it take for the world to take notice?””

    After the speakers delivered their words to the hundreds in attendance, candles were lit to symbolize solidarity and outrage toward the situation in Darfur.

    The crowd then marched down the Mall toward the Cactus Garden, where booths were set up for people to grab information booklets and educate themselves about the situation.

    Daniel Perezselsky, a senior majoring in political science and Near Eastern studies, said there is an overwhelming ignorance about the Darfur crisis and many are simply oblivious to what is going on overseas.

    “”The media covers what is interesting to its readers,”” Perezselsky said.

    Ben Gubernick, a junior majoring in English, agreed.

    “”As long as you see the devastation firsthand, then you start to give a damn,”” Gubernick said, citing Hurricane Katrina as another example.

    Leslye Obiora, a professor of law who is from Nigeria, said countries in Africa are not the only places in the world with a large heterogeneous population, yet there aren’t many countries worldwide with as much internal political strife as Sudan.

    Obiora faults the U.S. economy for not stepping up and delivering more funds overseas as well as the Sudanese government for not being there for its people.

    “”The U.S. should put its money where its mouth is,”” Obiora said. “”Time is of the essence. … I believe in the power of one.””

    Meanwhile in Washington, refugee Hassan Cober said in an interview that he was forced to leave his family and flee Sudan four years ago after many were killed and raped. He urged the United States and the U.N. to act quickly, saying he had no idea where his family was or if they were OK.

    “”We need deeds, not words,”” said Cober, now of Portland, Maine. “”They need to come to Darfur today, not tomorrow, because what is going on is a disaster.””

    The organizers’ permit anticipated 10,000 to 15,000 people would attend the rally, one of several in U.S. cities this weekend against what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

    “”It is the socially responsible, good-conscience thing to do,”” said Ron Fisher, who took a pre-dawn bus from Cleveland with his 15-year-old daughter Jordyn. “”It’s an opportunity to show my daughter what people do when they care about something.””

    The U.S. Park Police, which does not issue crowd estimates, reported no arrests.

    The event attracted high-profile speakers such as actor George Clooney, just back from Africa; Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek, who gave his bonus money to the cause; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington.

    -The Associated Press contributed to this report

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