Friday, June 25, 2004

This morning's NPR report finally aired a major story on genocide in Darfur -- although, like the U.S. government, they waffled on whether that term should be used. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was interviewed, and he had no problem in calling it genocide -- but went on to make the more important point that the U.S. should be doing much more to stop the Sudanese government from sending out the Janjaweed militia to kill, rape, and drive out villagers. The story began by saying that Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to Africa for a couple of days to consider this issue. Apparently, our government is engaging in the same kind of reluctance to name what's going in Darfur as genocide as the Clinton administration did with Rwanda in 1994, in an effort, one would presume, to avoid doing anything, as we avoided doing anything then. I'm tired of seeing memorials to the victims of genocide. This time, we should do something to prevent further killing, as well as sending in massive amounts of humanitarian aid for the people already chased from their homes to Chad.

Kristof, in a posting on his web site, recommends the following aid groups to give money to:

Readers keep asking me what they can do about the genocide unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, or who they can write to. I'm in the reporting business, not the lobbying business. But for those readers desperate for some ideas, here are some that have been passed on to me:

For readers who want to contribute financially, one of the main aid organizations active in Darfur itself is Doctors Without Borders. Another key group is the International Rescue Committee, which was building wells in one of the areas that I visited.

For readers who want to engage their member of Congress or pursue the matter politically can find more information at this link from the International Crisis Group.

In addition, Africa Action is sponsoring an on-line petition calling for tougher action against the killings in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has produced superb reports on the crisis here.

Finally, for those who want to stay informed about the crisis in Darfur, there are several websites that have regular updates of news there. One is , another is and another is

This is just a small sampling of what's out there. Most big aid groups, including all the major faith-based ones, are helping, from Catholic Relief Services ( to Friends of the World Food Programme ( to World Vision ( to American Jewish World Service ( Indeed, one of the big gaps has been Islamic charities, which have tended -- inexcusably -- to show sympathy for Sudan's Arab government. So the sad and ironic outcome is that the people of Darfur, who are virtually all Muslims, are getting significant help from Christians and Jews but almost nothing from fellow Muslims. I hope some Muslim aid groups will quickly remedy that.

In a later posting, Kristof gave information about Muslim charities that are involved in helping people in Darfur:

After scolding Muslims for not doing more to help the people of Darfur, I got this email from Zeeshan in California:

    I am a muslim and ashamed to see yet another instance of muslims committing genocide on other muslims. I am originally from Bangladesh, and we are familiar with religion being hijacked for political agendas - we were subject to a genocide in 1971 by the erstwhile ruling West Pakistanis. Darfur is being covered by a muslim charity that I donate to. Here's the link: or . I would appreciate posting this link as a proof that not all muslims are turning a blind eye towards such a heart-breaking tragedy.

That link is for Islamic Relief, a major charity. I didn’t come across its people on my visits to the Chad/Sudan border, but its website shows it to be commendably active on the issue. There are lots of other Muslim charities – the Islamic obligation to give zakat, or alms to the needy, has nurtured many aid groups – and they do fine work in poor countries. I hope more become active in Darfur. They could play a particularly useful role because they would be more trusted by Sudan and might get better access, and they might also have more Arabic speakers on staff (most of the victims in Darfur speak a tribal language as their mother tongue, and then Arabic as a second language, making communication a big problem).

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