In 1994, Rwanda suffered one of the worst genocides in the 20th century. As many as 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutu militiamen.
President Bill Clinton, rattled by the political fallout from Somalia the year before, stood by idly. The rest of the world was quiet. Moreover, say members of a group of local African-American ministers and Jewish rabbis, the American public had precious little to say.
With this in mind, the clergy members traveled to Capitol Hill late last week to convey their concern about the ongoing genocide in Darfur in western Sudan.
The eight religious leaders met with experts from the U.S. government, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C. They discussed what they learned with 10 U.S. representatives including John Conyers (D-Detroit), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills).
So far, 300,000 people have been killed and 2 million displaced by a conflict raging between rebels and a militia called the Janjaweed. Although the Janjaweed has ostensibly been sponsored by the Sudanese government to fight a rebel movement in Darfur, the group has also been given free rein to kill, rape, pillage and plunder.
The interfaith group backs the Darfur Accountability Act, which would promote an arms embargo against the government in Khartoum, economic sanctions and other measures.
"I’m appalled that this has been allowed to continue," says Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg of Congregation Shir Tikvah of Troy. "I believe part of it is racism because most of the victims are black. The bottom line is that millions of people are going to die if we don’t come to their aid."
The problem begins at the local level, says the Rev. Robert O. Dulin Jr., of the Metropolitan Church of God in Detroit. "We’ve got to learn to educate the local community so we can bring pressure to bear on our legislators," he says. "They are in a position to do something."News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact News Hits at NewsHits@metrotimes.com