Four hundred advocates, supporters and friends of United to End Genocide and the STAND student network converged on Washington, D.C. this weekend for the End Genocide Action Summit. It was an incredible gathering overflowing with information and inspiration. It was impossible to be there and not be moved.
Right now, many of these advocates are converging on Capitol Hill to deliver a message that is a matter of life and death for many thousands in Sudan who are the latest targets of a mass murderer who is wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. They are demanding that the United States take action now to stop Bashir from continuing to terrorize the Sudanese people.
Many summit participants were young activists – some experienced campus organizers and others who had never taken action in support of any cause before. There were seniors, soccer moms, business people and artists. There were those who have been touched by the horror of genocide and mass atrocity first hand. They all joined us to show that even when conflicts don’t hit the headlines, there is a wellspring of citizens who are vigilant and ready to take action. Their willingness to act to stop the suffering of people in far parts of the world has a power that cannot be underestimated.
Courageous activists from Sudan shared their stories and grounded us in the realities of those who are facing threats and violence every day. A panel on what is happening in Sudan was packed to overflowing. Conference participants demanded that the session be repeated a second time so that everyone could learn what is happening there. Indeed, we were heartened that New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof chose this past Sunday to highlight the current violence in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions of Sudan in his column, getting this story to many people who were not here with us, but also care and will take action.
What is happening In Sudan? It bears repeating that right now violence against Sudanese in these southern border regions is escalating to a horrific level. Omar al-Bashir, architect of the Darfur genocide, has directed attacks on civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Huge numbers of people have been displaced from their homes. The attacks are only going to intensify now, as the rainy season comes to an end and roads become passable. And adding to the terror, the bombings have prevented Sudanese from planting crops, the government is denying access to humanitarian aid and hundreds of thousands are now at risk of starvation.
Conference participants committed themselves to action. United to End Genocide’s Stop Bashir! campaign has already generated over 25,000 individual calls to action even before this weekend’s Action Summit and is gaining momentum. We have testified before Congress and are working with allied Members to push for stronger US action, and we continue to keep the pressure on the Administration.
The Action Summit was a moment for all of us to recharge and recommit to our vision of a world without genocide or mass atrocities. Now we’re ready to continue to ground that vision in action. We will send postcards and petitions, we will have call-in days, we will call for and testify at Congressional hearings, we will propose legislation, we will continue to speak out in the media and organize events to garner attention, we will build our numbers and our presence in Washington and throughout the nation. We will create a drum beat of pressure on the Administration that won’t let up until they reverse course and stop accommodating this brutal killer and his ruthless regime.
We need you now more than ever. There a number of ways to help but for starters, we want to collect at least 50,000 signatures to our Stop Bashir campaign by December 6th, the 6 month anniversary of when Bashir’s forces began their attacks in South Kordofan. Please go to www.stopbashir.org, sign a postcard and then share this action through your social networks. Five minutes of your time will go a long way to getting us to 50,000.
We will be acting on other crises, as well. Activists heard firsthand about what is happening to people in Syria, in Burma, in Democratic Republic of Congo. As many of you at the summit reminded us, we can only have an impact if we come together, if we amplify our voices, if we build a larger, stronger community of activists who will stand up now, today — to stop Bashir’s campaign of horror in Sudan, and to act any time people are threatened by genocide or mass atrocity, anywhere in the world.
Together, we move forward, sobered by the enormity of the challenge before us but heartened by the committed men and women – young and old – who are uniting to end genocide.