There has been a flurry of Jewish activity on the Darfur issue in the last few days, after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expelled aid organizations from Sudan last week. The Reform movement is urging its members to call on Congress and the president to demand humanitarian aid be restored to Darfur. Here’s Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism director Rabbi David Saperstein’s full statement:
President Bashir’s expulsion of aid organizations from Sudan is morally reprehensible, and will result in the slow death of civilians across Sudan. It is expected that barring the operation of 16 humanitarian aid organizations throughout the country will leave an estimated 1.1 million people without food, 1.1 million lacking health care, and more than 1 million without drinking water. In Kalma camp, a meningitis epidemic is killing those already displaced from their homes, and in Zam Zam camp, a diarrhea epidemic threatens children’s lives.
Our congregations have been leaders in the movement for human rights in Darfur and for peace in Sudan. More than ever, now is the time for each of us to again call on members of Congress and the administration to pressure international actors to restore humanitarian aid to Darfur. [Resources for action can be found at www.rac.org/darfur.]
President Bashir’s actions, coupled with recent violence toward aid workers in the region, only make more obvious the need for a strong international presence in Sudan. UN peacekeeping forces must be reinforced, and the U.S. must send an envoy to help bring peace to the region. President Bashir has succeeded at killing his citizens for too long. We cannot allow this tragedy to continue.
The American Jewish World Service also issued a statement Friday on the same issue:
Ruth W. Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), has issued a statement today calling on the international community to actively push for the re-instatement of international aid organizations into Darfur so workers can continue providing critical services to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons throughout Darfur and Chad.
“The already fragile humanitarian situation in Darfur is bound to deteriorate quickly. Our elected leaders are being called upon to represent the values, conscience, and humanity of their constituents,” the statement reads.
“The expulsion of 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the termination of three national NGOs will lead to the loss of 7,610 humanitarian staff and diminish the capacity of the world’s largest humanitarian effort by about fifty percent. The human results are staggering: 1.5 million Darfuris will lose access to health and nutrition services; 1.1 million will stop receiving general food distribution; and 1.16 million will have water, hygiene, and sanitation services interrupted.
“The situation is dire and will require the entire international community to come together to avert rapid and substantial loss of life.”
And both of those groups joined a multitude of other Jewish organizations on a letter to the president organized by the Save Darfur Caoltion asking tha the president "undertake an urgent, sustained diplomatic push to resolve the conflict in Darfur" and appoint a full-time Sudan envoy. Here’s that letter:
Dear President Obama,
Darfur demands your attention now. Millions of lives are at risk, and your direct engagement can not be delayed.
We are a broad coalition of faith-based, human rights and advocacy organizations, and on behalf of our constituencies we implore you to respond immediately to the increasingly urgent situation in Sudan.
As you know, the licenses of over a dozen humanitarian aid organizations have been revoked by the government of Sudan, leaving millions of Darfuri civilians at immediate risk of disease and starvation. You, along with other world leaders, must immediately and publicly condemn President Bashir’s actions and insist that he restore access to life-saving humanitarian aid.
We know from your commitment to Darfur as a senator and your campaign pledge of "unstinting resolve" to end the Darfur genocide that you believe that the United States and its citizens cannot stand by while civilians are unjustly targeted by their own government. Since you were elected our president, over 250,000 Americans have signed postcards asking that your administration take swift and strong action to end the genocide in Darfur. Now, with millions of lives hanging in the balance, we must act immediately. Any delay will lead to even greater loss of life in Darfur.
The Sudanese government’s decision to restrict the flow of humanitarian aid to Darfur represents the possible prelude to a humanitarian catastrophe of the highest magnitude. The 13 organizations that had their licenses revoked are some of the largest international aid groups in Darfur and sustain an apparatus that provides the last remaining lifeline for 4.7 million conflict-affected Darfuri people.
The time is now for the United States to immediately undertake an urgent, sustained diplomatic push to resolve the conflict in Darfur, including the reopening of humanitarian access. Sudan’s recent actions reinforce the need to appoint a full-time Sudan envoy with the stature, mandate and authority to drive all aspects of Sudan policy.
We are counting on your leadership, President Obama. But more importantly, so are the people of Darfur.
Save Darfur Coalition
CC: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice
Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Genocide Intervention Network
Rabbi Steve Gutow
President and CEO
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
President and CEO
American Jewish World Service
Chief Executive Officer
Physicians for Human Rights
Reverend William G. Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Sr. Program Director for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations
National Council of Churches USA
Armenian National Committee of America
Armenian Assembly of America
Institute for the Study of Genocide
Citizens for Global Solutions
Abraham H. Foxman
Genocide Prevention Project
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg, President
Rabbi Leonard D. Gordon, Social Action Chair
Rabbi Marion Shulevitz
Rev. David Emmanuel Goatley, Ph.D.
Lott Carey Convention/Lott Carey International
Jewish World Watch
Rabbi Marla Feldman
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
E. Robert Goodkind
Chair, JBI Council.
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Darfur Association in the USA, Birmingham, AL
Mohamed Adam Yahya
Founder and Executive Director
Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Teachers Against Prejudice
Sudan Advocacy Action Forum
Martina W. Knee
Member, Executive Committee
San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition
Investors Against Genocide
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre
Society for Threatened Peoples
Jews Against Genocide
Nancy Walsh and Gloria Crist
Eileen B. Weiss
NYC Coalition for Darfur
Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom
World Relief Organization
Director, Legislative Affairs and Intergroup Relations
Jewish Community Relations Council of the San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties
Darfur Alert Coalition
Affiliation of Christian Engineers
India Foundation, USA
K. S. Sripada Raju
International Service Society
ARC, Lansing, Michigan
Washington Watch Inc.
Annapolis Friends Meeting
Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus
Americans Against the Darfur Genocide
B’nai B’rith International
Kentuckiana Interfaith Taskforce on Darfur
Policy Advocate on International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
Rabbi Steven Fox
Central Conference of American Rabbis
I Stop Genocide
Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition
Gabriel Stauring and Katie-Jay Scott
Stop Genocide Now