Saperstein Joins Members of Congress, Activists in Calling for Aid to Darfur
“We gather today because the people in the camps have no lobby, no PACs to speak for them. Today we are their voice for justice, their hope for life.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 19, 2009 — Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today joined members of Congress and other leaders in the activist community in speaking at a press conference about the humanitarian aid crisis in Darfur.
Other speakers were: Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA); Donna Edwards (D-MD); Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Chris Smith (R-NJ); Jim Moran (D-VA); Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Executive Director of Sojourners; actress Maria Bello; John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project; and Omer Ismail, founder of Darfur Peace and Development.
Full text of Rabbi Saperstein’s statement follows:
We stand here today on behalf of the people of Darfur, who after five years of the horrors of genocidal activity, are still waiting in fear and desperation.
They wait for a UN force that has the capacity to actually protect them from attacks. They wait for the newly appointed U.S. envoy to help bring about a just and long-lasting peace. They wait for our help to ensure the restoration of humanitarian organizations that have worked to keep them alive under the darkest of circumstances. They wait until the world no longer allows President Bashir to promote violence and death over peace and life.
People of goodwill both here and around the globe have worked toward that day. We have marched and we have rallied. And yet, the ethnic cleansing continues.
We have contributed to humanitarian efforts, helped build camps and medical facilities that have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. And yet, the children and parents of Darfur die.
We have raised our voices in a chorus heard from the halls of this Congress to the White House to capitals across the globe to the UN to the chambers of the International Criminal Court and laws have been passed, policies changed, and actions taken aimed at ending this debacle and holding responsible the perpetrator of this genocidal activity. And yet, President Bashir is free to continue his crimes against humanity.
We have seen the power we have together to make changes, to make a difference. And yet, even now as the wheels of justice begin to turn, we feel the pain of every Darfurian man, woman, and child who has survived the violence of the Janjaweed only now to face the peril of starvation, contaminated water and disease from their leader’s malicious and intentionally imposed denial of his own people to the lifesaving ministries of heroic aid organizations. The dwindling medical supplies, the scarce water and food, and the spread of disease through refugee and IDP camps are all too quickly taking their toll on the people of Darfur – succeeding where the bullets failed. But the death of the people of Darfur is just as certain.
We know that the people of Darfur are survivors. They’ve survived the rape of their mothers and sisters, and the senseless killing of their fathers. They’ve survived air attacks from Sudanese planes and the pillaging of their villages. They’ve survived walking for days in the desert in search of the fragile safety of a refugee camp. They’ve survived life in these camps, where thousands compete for resources and danger lurks on the camp’s borders.
They’ve survived for years, waiting for international intervention that works, a fading hope that eludes them still.
And the aid workers of Sudan are also survivors. They’ve survived attacks on their colleagues, restrictions on their communications, and the desperation in the eyes of those they seek to help, fulfilling the values embodied in the Talmud two thousand years ago that to save one life is to save the world entire. I have been to the camps, where the work of each of the hundreds of international aid workers in Darfur has saved untold lives. We cannot let their work be in vain.
And so we gather today because the people in the camps have no lobby, no PACs to speak for them. Today we are their voice for justice, their hope for life. And we turn now to a new administration and new Congress, and call on President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, the leaders and members of Congress, and leaders of China, the Africa Union, the European Union, indeed of nations across the world to act now to forge an international consensus that President Bashir be held accountable, the international aid workers returned immediately, the ethnic cleansing stopped. The people of Darfur can only survive so much longer. And so Dr. King’s “fierce urgency of now” is the task of people of conscience everywhere. We must not fail.
Photos of the event are available from the Save Darfur Coalition and can be found here.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.