Students across the U.S. and Canada unite with religious communities in creative call to conscience to end Darfur genocide
Religious congregations and schools throughout the United States and Canada are placing refugee tents in their sanctuaries and campuses to arouse the world’s conscience to end the genocide in Darfur. STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition, is urging its 700 chapters across North America to participate in the “Tents of Hope” campaign.
The Tents of Hope campaign encourages a community-based response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan through education, advocacy and fundraising for humanitarian aid. Communities are invited to raise awareness about the genocide by painting simulated refugee tents with a variety of images and scenes conceived and painted by people from all walks of life. Tents of Hope is a one-year campaign that will culminate in a collective action as local communities across North America bring their tents to Washington, D.C. in October 2008. Over the last two months, the Tents of Hope campaign has spread to more than 60 cities in the United States and Canada. Participating groups include religious congregations, K-12 schools, universities, seminaries, civic and arts groups and even a retirement home.
“During the Holocaust there was a concentration camp called Majdanek where 300,000 people were murdered by the Nazis,” said Scott Warren, Student Director of STAND. “The camp was on the outskirts of Lublin, Poland, and every day the residents could smell burning corpses. But no one tried to stop the killing. Parents taught their children not to talk about the concentration camp. Today, we must not allow young people to be taught that living with genocide is acceptable. The tents are a reminder that we must stand with the people of Darfur until the genocide is ended,” Warren said.
“Students have been at the forefront of leadership in this unprecedented grassroots movement to end the genocide in Darfur,” said Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “They have given the world a shining example of social conscience.”
STAND and the Tents of Hope campaign are stressing the urgency of immediate international action to end the genocide in Darfur as Sudan’s government begins to dismantle the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Darfur.
The United Nations reported in October that the Sudanese government was forcibly evicting hundreds of families from the Otash camp, home to over 60,000 displaced persons, near the south Darfur capital of Nyala. Humanitarian groups warn that if an estimated 2.5 million displaced persons are dispersed and forced to flee, the consequences will be horrific. Since 2003, the government sponsored genocide has claimed between 300,000 and 500,000 lives.
“By dismantling the camps, the Sudanese government is trying to hide the evidence of genocide in Darfur before United Nations peacekeepers arrive later this year,” said Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. “Every person of faith and goodwill must lift up their voice to denounce the crimes against humanity being committed in Darfur.”
U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey of California said, “Let’s be honest. The international community has failed miserably in Darfur. The Sudanese government has allowed the killing to go on unchecked, even at times participating in it. The world has given President Omar Hassan al-Bashir the green light by providing the money and weapons that keep the genocide going. I am working with my colleagues in Congress to insist we support peacekeeping forces and not the policies of the Sudanese government.”
Congregations, schools and other groups wishing to obtain a tent or learn more about participating in the Tents of Hope campaign are invited to visit www.tentsofhope.org.
STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition (www.STANDnow.org) comprises more than 700 high school and college chapters throughout the United States and internationally. STAND mobilizes students to take action to prevent genocide by educating, advocating, and fundraising for civilian protection. STAND is the student division of the Genocide Intervention Network.
TENTS OF HOPE (www.tentsofhope.org) is a community-based campaign in which people respond to the genocide in Darfur by creating tents that are both unique works of art and ongoing focal points within communities for learning about, assisting and establishing relationships with the people of Sudan. The one-year Tents of Hope campaign culminates with the “Gathering of the Tents” at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 10-12, 2008. Tents of Hope emerged in June 2007 through a partnership between the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Dear Sudan.