War in Sudan: 20 years and counting
While the world's focus has recently been fixated on the war in Iraq, yesterday, members from the London community attempted to bring attention to the devastating 20-year civil war raging in Sudan, and their efforts to create peace.
"Peace is something we need to talk about, and not only when there is a large scale occurrence," said Michael Veenema, Christian reformed chaplain at Western and one of the event organizers.
"For peace to be achieved, it's not enough to lay down the weapons," said John Kok, a Sudanese refugee and Canadian citizen. Kok said Canada's federal government is currently assessing a proposal from the Canadian Association of Southern Sudanese to send volunteers into Sudan to help rehabilitate communities. "[Volunteering is] a way to transmit values of peacemaking individuals to our homeland."
According to Jane Roy, director of the London Food Bank and a panellist at the discussion, there have been over two million deaths and thousands of men, women and children taken into slavery throughout the Sudanese war.
Along with panellist Glen Pearson, Roy has gone into Sudan to redeem slaves by purchasing them and setting them free. "About 50,000 slaves have been redeemed," Roy said. "The number of people taken [into slavery] has gone down because of monitors now [present] in the area.
"We have to find a way to work with all people to bring peace," Pearson said, adding he and Roy have attempted to work with various groups in Sudanese communities to bring about peace.
David Janzen, a member of the Christian Peacemaking Teams, said his organization has been involved in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan, among other locations. He said the group attempts to assist with the day to day difficulties, such as accompanying children to school, or taking people to hospitals.
"I'd like to encourage people to get to know someone from a refugee community in London," said Dorothy Vaandering, a representative of the Canadian Association of Southern Sudanese in London, noting their proposal to the Canadian government is only in its early stages, but is a credible and applicable plan of action.
"I thought it was great, I don't really know anything about the situation. I came because I am interested in international relations," said Heather Kelly, a first-year scholar's electives student.