Take action in Darfur

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

April 4, 2008 Ed Cartoon

The human rights atrocities occurring in Darfur, Sudan are easy for westerners to sweep under the rug.

Even with extensive media coverage, many in the west feel detached from the horrors in Darfur. It is just one conflict alongside Afghanistan, Iraq and others; in many ways we have become desensitized. We cannot imagine, nor relate to, the systemic rape and mass killing occurring halfway around the world.

The United Nations refuses to acknowledge Darfur as genocide due to a supposed lack of evidence. Terms like “crisis” and the “situation in Darfur” are often thrown around in the media, undermining the extent of the violence.

Even the term ‘genocide’ itself cannot capture the multifaceted nature of the conflict. Yet, perhaps if the UN was willing to label the crisis with a trigger word like ‘genocide,’ it could spur more action from governments.

As it stands, government action is hard to obtain. The pressure to take a stand falls on the west, known as the world’s traditional peacekeepers.

Countries like France and China are unlikely candidates to step in, as they cling to their various investments in the region.

So what about Canada or the United States? Both countries have political lobby groups geared towards raising awareness of the crisis. Groups such as Students Taking Action Now, Darfur have made strides towards educating the public and putting pressure on institutions and governments to divest from Darfur.

Yet, within the general public, there is a hesitancy to become involved. Desensitization coupled with a sense of frustration in the unforeseeable end of conflicts in the Middle East leads to public apathy towards Darfur.

Unfortunately, governments are not going to step in without immense pressure from their constituents.

STAND and other groups have done a good job of making the public aware of the crisis. Now it is time for practical action at the grassroots level.

People must resist the temptation towards apathy. Citizens attuned to the Darfur atrocities must stand up against politicians who will otherwise not pay attention. It will take the commitment of numerous individuals.

Without support, there is little more groups like STAND can accomplish. Although it has made few substantial gains since its inception several years ago, STAND should be commended for its effort in the face of a daunting task.

Pacifism is a popular stance right now, and concepts such as divestment are a hard sell to politicians. Only with the bona fide, spirited backing of voters can STAND and other organizations make headway.

Overall, the most troubling aspect of the crisis in Darfur is the inaction we have seen thus far.

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