Marilyn and Krissy (who have taught me so much about what it means to love people the way God instructs us to) both went to the Save Darfur rally in Washington, D.C. over the weekend. Here's an article that was in the New York Times about the rally.
Here's another article on aiding Darfur. I'm posting this one, rather than linking, because I have a specific point to make:
April 30, 2006
Muslims' Plight in Sudan Resonates With Jews in U.S.
By NEELA BANERJEE
PORTLAND, Me., April 27 — When immigrants from the Darfur region of Sudan turned to their neighbors here for help in spreading the word about the carnage in their homeland, they found an unlikely but surprisingly effective ally in Adam Zuckerman, an 18-year-old Jewish high school student.
Over the last year, Mr. Zuckerman has raised $6,000 to support the Save Darfur coalition and to charter a bus to take protesters to a Darfur rally in Washington on Sunday.
Mr. Zuckerman has helped organize a trip for Darfuris to enlist the support of Representative Tom Allen, Democrat of Maine, and has spoken on panels all over the state. He has also testified before the Maine Legislature as part of a successful campaign to divest state money from companies that do business in Sudan. The Darfuris in Portland, who are Muslim and mostly new to the United States, seem grateful to Mr. Zuckerman. They have made him an honorary member of their community association, and some attended a Passover Seder at his house.
Still, some of them seem bewildered by the work of a young Jewish boy against the killing of Muslims in a faraway corner of the world. Jewish groups, congregations and lay people like Mr. Zuckerman have taken a lead role in organizing grass-roots responses to the killing in Darfur, an impulse, Jewish leaders and lay people say, that flows from the legacy of the Holocaust and from religious traditions of social activism.
"If you're not standing up for people who are oppressed, then your belief is just words," said Mr. Zuckerman, a senior at Deering High School and a member of congregation Bet Ha'am. "
Members of Bet Ha'am, a Reform congregation, tend to be involved with social issues, said Rabbi Alice Dubinsky. Still, there remained a question of whether people would want to hear about politics during the Sabbath. But Darfur is so grave a situation, Ms. Dubinsky said, that "we have no right to rest on the Sabbath."
"In Judaism, there is no distinction between the religious and the ethical," she said, "so you can't be a religious Jew without acting to bring justice."
A year ago, Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, gave a speech about the Darfur crisis at Bet Ha'am, drawing parallels between the Holocaust and what was happening in Sudan. In the process, she inspired Mr. Zuckerman to action.
Ms. Messinger felt compelled to do something in part because the Committee on Conscience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a genocide alert for Darfur in early 2004.
American Jewish World Service, an international development fund, gives money to relief agencies working in Darfur, but a more political response seemed necessary because "it became increasingly apparent to us that providing humanitarian aid to victims of genocide was not enough," Ms. Messinger said.
In July 2004, the American Jewish World Service and the Holocaust Museum founded the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 160 secular and religious groups calling for international intervention to halt the violence that has killed at least 180,000 people and displaced more than two million.
A range of groups are represented on its board, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the International Crisis Group and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On Friday, President Bush met with several Darfur activists, including David Rubenstein, the coordinator of the Save Darfur Coalition, who asked him to appoint a special envoy to Darfur and to push the United Nations to send a multinational force. The genocide in Rwanda hangs over Darfur and has led to a louder, broader outcry, Jewish leaders said.
"I think high up in the reasons is embarrassment over 900,000 people being slaughtered in Rwanda and the fact that it took 8,000 French landing there to stop it," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Darfuris are sprinkled throughout the United States; one of the biggest concentrations in the United States of the Fur tribe, about 80 to 100 people, is in Portland. The violence, Darfuris say, started long ago but worsened in 2003, when militias backed by the Arab-Islamist government razed villages.
"The killings happened daily, daily, daily," said Mansour Ahmed, leader of the Fur local community association. "We are surprised that the world is standing by."
Outrage over the silence resonates with Jews.
"This sense of loneliness is something that Jews know very well," said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. From the time Mr. Zuckerman was a small boy, his parents have taken him to synagogue, observed Friday evening Sabbath at home, and volunteered in the community. When he was a Hebrew-school seventh-grader, he learned about the Holocaust and other genocides.
"The worst part is that we're letting it happen again," he said recently.
He has spoken at school, at his synagogue, at colleges, anywhere that will listen to him. He carries pictures showing the atrocities in Darfur. As they traveled to speaking engagements and to meetings with legislators, Mr. Zuckerman and the Darfuris got to know one another, and that began a smaller transformation. The Sudanese grew up immersed in the Arab news media, which meant that they barely saw Jews as people, said Izzeldin Abdullah Adam, 39, a Darfuri who lives in Portland. Now, Darfuris here say they believe Jews and other Americans care more than many Muslim states about what is happening in Darfur.
"We're brothers in humanity; they know genocide," Mr. Ahmed said.
Nagmeldin Arbab, a 20-year-old refugee, added, "The Jews understand Arabs more than others."
Rabbi Dubinsky and other Jews deny that their interest in Darfur is motivated by anti-Arab sentiment.
About 15 Darfuris will be on the bus from Portland to the rally in Washington, largely paid for by a grant Mr. Zuckerman received from American Jewish World Service. The other day at the Zuckerman house, Darfuris, students, Bet Ha'am congregants and others were going over the details of the trip. One by one, they explained why they were going to the rally. To take a stand, some said. To put pressure on the Sudanese government, the Darfuris said.
Then Mr. Zuckerman's father, Barry, spoke. "In a lot of ways, my son has mentored me, he's educated me," he said. "I need to go."
I hate this phrase, but for lack of a better one, I was really "moved" by this article. These Jewish community members are loving people. God's way. Defending those who cannot defend themselves. Speaking up for those without a voice. So the question becomes, where are the Christians? I realize that this article is specifically focused on the Jewish community so it is logical that other groups would not be the focus, but I still wonder why we aren't making this kind of impact. Why aren't churches across the nation defending the helpless in such a huge way that people can't help but notice? (I'm certainly not saying we should do it to be noticed, rather that we should do it to the extent that people taking notice is the natural outcome.) As Marilyn and Krissy have helped me learn so clearly throughout this past year, if we are to love as Christ loved, we will feed the hungry, give to the poor, defend the helpless, and fight for the cause of the oppressed. "Love is not self-seeking," says 1 Corinthians. And it hates evil. And if it hates evil, one would assume it would do something to combat evil.
Are we really loving these people?