Still Pushing On Darfur


You might forgive members of the Jewish community for a little Darfur fatigue, given the push the issue has gotten in the last year or so.

But when it comes to the energy and spirit of those concerned about the violence in the embattled region of the Sudan, Ruth Messinger likes to come across as optimistic, as she did in a recent interview. “The issue is definitely sustainable,” said the president of the American Jewish World Service, a founder of the Save Darfur Coalition. “It’s really a question of letting them know that every call and every letter has really had an impact.”

But a few days before, at a Dec. 15 forum about the crisis that many have labeled genocide, Messinger appeared to imply that fatigue and despair could become a problem. “Feel the anger,” she told the audience. “Don’t allow yourselves to become resigned. Do more.”

The forum, held at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, drew more than 900 people to view a documentary about Darfur and to hear a panel discussion featuring actress Mia Farrow, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Paul Freedman, the film’s director. The film, “Sand and Sorrow,” is still in the editing stages, but a written message at the start of the documentary said “its message is complete” — that genocide is taking place in Darfur, a region in western Sudan, with more than 200,000 people killed and as many as 2.5 million displaced since the violence began in 2003.

In a discussion after the film, Farrow, a former “Goodwill Ambassador” for UNICEF, said she had been to the region twice with another UN agency and speaks across the country on the urgency of ending the violence. Kristof warned that if the crisis isn’t stopped soon, it could spread to other African nations.

One member of the audience admitted that she often feels “totally” fatigued, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my arms up in the air and asked myself, ‘Why are we doing this?’ ” said Eileen Weiss, co-founder of Jews Against Genocide. But then, she added, she thinks of an infant in one of the refugee camps and asks: “How can we give up on that person?”