Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, at the Sudan Campaign's Demonstration at the Sudan Embassy Calling for Action on the Genocide Threat
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
The people of Sudan, who have suffered for so long, can no longer afford our silence in the face of this new chapter of their tragedy. We are here today to raise our voices so loudly that we cannot be ignored - by the world, by our leaders, and by all those who seek to call themselves moral and caring human beings.
I stand here today to condemn the government of Sudan and its Janjaweed militiamen, for committing genocidal acts and feeding the scourge of slavery and oppression. I stand hear to say that we dare not cover our eyes in the face of the unabated evil perpetrated against millions of people of black African origin. We dare not harden our hearts and fall victim to inaction as some 30,000 Darfurians may have already been murdered, as 1.2 million people are forced to flee their homes and farms, and as 350,000 are estimated to die by the end of the year because of the violence and famine if we do not act. We dare not sit on the sidelines when the time for nations to support effective intervention comes into plain view. Should we dare forget the historical injustices wrought because of callous indifference? We must act now.
I stand here today because, for thousands of years, Jews have been among the quintessential victims of persecution and oppression simply because of who we were, because of what we believed. We waited for others to speak out - but too often there was only silence. Today we must break away from shameful silence and raise our collective conscience in recognition of this terrible affront on all humanity. For only the second time in its history, the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has issued a genocide alert on behalf of the victims in Darfur. Today nearly 20 Jewish Community Relations Council directors from around the country join us in the call for an end to the bloodshed and starvation. We must not wait to take all necessary actions to protect innocent life and avert humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan.
The United States should be applauded for pressing the government of Sudan and rebels in the country's south to reach an end to the 21-year civil war that killed more than two million people. But without a stop to the new violence in Darfur and without unrestricted humanitarian access, there can be no lasting peace in that nation.
We commend Secretary of State Powell for going to Sudan as well as our government for insisting that Sudan reverse the effects of genocidal activity. Still, these are essential but insufficient steps. The United States' provision of vital humanitarian relief to Sudan is an essential and yet insufficient step. Only with an international commitment to peace in Sudan, and only with an international commitment to providing resources to the people of Darfur, and only when the government of Sudan ends its support for atrocities, and only when the government of Sudan allows full humanitarian access for relief workers, and only when rebels in Darfur bear their own responsibility for breeding conditions for continued abuse, and only when Sudanese children can grow and thrive in peace, only then will we say in the words from the Passover Seder - Dayenu - it is enough.
Until then, we will continue to speak for those who cannot speak, pressing for UN condemnation of the horrors in Darfur, disarming of the Janjaweed, adhering to the April 8 ceasefire with Darfur's rebel groups, pressing for the Sudanese government to allow full and free access for relief workers. Until then we will continue the struggle - and we will prevail.
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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .