The Common Good

The Darfur Imperative

Sojomail - May 3, 2006

Quote of the Week : No thanks
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: The Darfur imperative
Palestine Journal : Cat and mouse in Gaza
Campus Lines : One night on the streets
Values for Life : I will simply survive
Sojourners in the News : This week's media round-up
Boomerang : Readers write
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- Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), on widespread criticism of a Senate Republican proposal to offer $100 rebate checks to ease the burden of rising fuel prices.

Source: The New York Times

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"Through the years, I have frequently had an uncomfortable feeling," wrote McLaren, "that the portrait of Jesus I found in the New Testament didn't fit with the images of Jesus in the church." Out of that nagging discomfort arose McLaren's most revolutionary book to date.


The Darfur imperative
by Jim Wallis

Protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol to demand an end the Darfur genocide. (photo by Ryan Beiler)
Beyond all the important things that we are doing, there is one thing that we all must now do: stop the genocide in Darfur. For some time now, the world has known the facts of Darfur: up to 450,000 people dead and nearly 3 million displaced - black citizens (mostly Muslims) of the western region of Sudan are being daily attacked, raped, and massacred by marauding militias armed and supported by the country's Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. But knowing the facts hasn't changed them on the ground. Thousands more die each week of murder, hunger, and disease and the death toll could reach to the millions if the pillage of Darfur is not stopped soon.

In Washington, D.C., this weekend, and in 17 other cities, tens of thousands of people rallied to say "enough." It was the largest, clearest, and strongest public witness thus far against the horrible events that have been unfolding since 2003. The make-up of the crowd was the beginning of the answer to Darfur. Many commented on how this human crime and tragedy is bridging all our divisions, and bringing people together from across all our boundaries. Jewish families with their children gathered together with evangelical Christians, African-American church people with leaders from the Religious Right, Republicans with Democrats, Hollywood actors with conservative activists, and many students (for whom Darfur is becoming a rallying cry) with human rights advocates who see this as the paramount challenge of the moment. Speakers invoked the Holocaust, Cambodia, and Rwanda, repeatedly reminding us that we have often said "never again" only to let it happen again ... and again. They told us that Darfur was the first genocide of the 21st century.

While the situation is complex, the crisis is rooted in longstanding grievances against African farmers who point to government neglect and ongoing conflict with primarily Arab herdsmen over land, water, and safety. That is why rebel groups are demanding formal representation in the Sudanese government to redress these grievances. The Sudanese government already has the land; it just wants to "cleanse" the land of its people. President Bush and Congress have named it genocide and the administration has tried to pressure the Sudanese government. But the world has been too slow and all the efforts thus far have failed to stop the daily death and atrocities. The Sudanese government has continued to resist international pressure. The U.S. has often been reluctant to put real teeth behind its rhetoric because of its strategic interest to keep the Sudanese government as an ally in the fight against terror.

Nothing less than a strong multinational peacekeeping force is needed now to stop the raping and killing by the Janjaweed militias; to assure the delivery of critical food, medical, and humanitarian aid; and to provide the security necessary to make a political solution possible. The U.S. must push the U.N. Security Council to authorize a multinational peacekeeping force - over the objections of China and Russia who do business with Khartoum - to reinforce the existing African Union force. Additionally, the U.S. should push the UN to aggressively enforce the current sanctions against the Sudanese government. The Bush administration has called for many of the right things, but has not applied the necessary pressure to accomplish them. Only a massive outpouring of public opinion could change that and force the U.S. to do whatever it takes. As long as that does not happen, many more people will be savagely attacked and cruelly displaced.

After Bono spoke to the National Prayer Breakfast he met with a handful of religious reporters. When asked why the rock star and Africa advocate was so interested in engaging religious people in his cause, Bono replied, "You have a bigger crowd than I do." He was right; we have the biggest crowd and one with political clout in Washington. It may now take the big crowd of the religious community to stop the genocide in Darfur. If the religious community would speak and act with one voice on Darfur, despite our many differences on so many other issues (as we did last Sunday in Washington, D.C.), we might persuade our U.S. government to do the right thing and make sure the right thing works.

But that will take all of us doing this one critical thing, in addition to everything else we are doing. The time has come for each one of us to start by calling our members of Congress and our senators to tell them they must act - now. Or it really will be too late - very soon.

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Cat and mouse in Gaza
by Philip Rizk

The demolished Gaza home where 7-year-old Hadeel Rhabin was killed by an Israeli rocket attack.
An Israeli rocket killed Hadeel Rhabin, 7, on Monday, April 10, as she sat in her home watching TV with her family. A cement beam spared her baby sister's life by protecting her from the blast. Twelve neighbors and other family members were injured. The blast demolished their home. Such incidents have been occurring regularly since Israel decreased the "safety range" allowed for shelling near inhabited areas, endangering Palestinians seeking refuge in their homes.

Since the Israeli disengagement from Gaza last August, there have been no reported Israeli deaths by makeshift Qassam rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. But in recent weeks, more than 20 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza alone by Israeli retaliatory strikes. Five of these were either bystanders or civilians. A 12-year-old girl, 16-year-old boy, and 7-year-old boy were among the dead....

On Monday, April 17, nine people were killed and dozens more injured as Sami Salim Hamad, 18, a Palestinian, blew himself up in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, stating that the attack was a response to the killings in Gaza over the past weeks; Hamas said it was "self-defense."

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One night on the streets
by Matt Enquist

You learn a lot when you spend a night on the streets. You learn a lot when you find yourself cold, ignored, and stuck on hard concrete for a night. I can only imagine what it must be like to do that every night.

On March 31, I was one of more than 120 people who slept outside of City Hall on Chicago's wind-swept Daley Plaza as part of the National Sleep Out event. The Chicago group was joined by dozens of activist groups all over the country and even by some overseas in this day of action to raise awareness for the men, women, and children behind the staggering statistics on homelessness.

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Put a smile on two mothers' faces

The gift a goat, cow, or other livestock will do more than put a smile on this mother's face - it will put milk in the jar to feed her children or sell at market. Giving to Heifer International makes it possible for mothers to raise healthy, happy families in China and dozens of other countries all around the world. There's no better way to show your mother she raised you right. Click here to help.


I will simply survive
by Elizabeth Chin

Simplifying, for the wealthy, has become a task, a burden, an end in itself. (When I say "the wealthy," I mean nearly every citizen of every wealthy nation.) For so many people in wealthy worlds, simplifying has also become an industry which, ironically, turns out an array of alluring products: toxin-free paint so wholesome it's known as "milk"; clothing woven from hemp fibers; even the fat, glossy magazine Real Simple. But conscious simplicity is not what it appears to be. After all, Thoreau's idyll at Walden Pond was made possible by the fact that someone else did his laundry. Which is to say: for most people, living simply is a luxury, and one that still ends up consuming a great deal - whether new categories of goods, other people's labor, or both.

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A Witness to End the War in Iraq
May 11-14

It is time for the war in Iraq to end. The human and economic costs of the war grow with each passing day. We are the majority and we must make our voices heard. Please join the American Friends Service Committee, veterans, military families, Iraqis and others in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, May 13, for a Silent March and Speak Out to demand an immediate end to the war. Also visit the Eyes Wide Open exhibit on the National Mall.

More information: Silence of the Dead: Voices of the Living.


This week's media round-up

Top story:

Darfur Arouses a New Unity The Baltimore Sun
The National Association of Evangelicals and the American Humanist Association might not agree on much. When it comes to abortion or homosexuality, the Union for Reform Judaism and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops find themselves on opposite ends of the debate. But when the subject is genocide in Darfur, all are on the same page.

More Sojourners in the news:

Brown Backs Archbishop on the Morality of Climate Change Action Ekklesia

'God is not partisan,' says 'Politics' author Wallis Lectures Omaha World-Herald

Do the Right Thing - Raise The Minimum Wage The Vanguard

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Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political, and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.

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Readers write

Pamela Mann writes from Crittenden, Kentucky:

I can confirm your immigration story about Diana ["The Christian face of immigration," SojoMail 4/26/2006]. As an advocate for our school's Migrant Education Program, plus having legal (H-2A) migrant workers on our farm, I have my own tear-jerker stories to share, as well as years of speaking out and fighting bigoted attitudes among my neighbors, farmers, and (Lord, forgive them!) church members. My own denomination - Southern Baptist - are sitting on their hands at best, yet in the shadows, perpetrate the immigration-hate frenzy. My own "Diana" is named "Aida," who can speak fluent English, has earned her GED, and is an outstanding influence on her Latino family and neighbors. Yet, she is in that line that is not moving her toward legalization. The papers are laying somewhere in the immigration bureaucracy maze, never to see the light of day without an act of Congress. I am praying - and shouting - for that day.


Brandi Morris writes from Apple Valley, California:

I feel great compassion for Diana Villanueva-Hoeckley and strongly agree that neither she - nor anyone in a similar situation - should be deported. Her mother came here legally. However, I also strongly feel that Batsone's stance polarizes the issue by calling Christians who oppose illegal immigration xenophobes. This is simply not fair. What country can "welcome all strangers" and still maintain control of its borders? And how can we ever expect to tackle our many critical social issues with limited resources and unlimited immigration? While I have compassion for the many people around the world who would like to seek opportunity here in the United States, I believe that it is wrong to justify illegal immigration on this basis.


Roger McCrummen writes from Kansas City, Missouri:

As a Christian and immigration attorney for many years, I am encouraged that Sojourners and other Christian organizations see immigration reform as a national moral and human rights issue. I appreciate David Batstone's article and your recent coverage. The example he gives is not some aberration, but a common tragic event. Families are torn apart (sometimes permanently) every day because of harsh laws for "crimes" that consist only of overstaying a visa or entering the country without documents. And the callousness of many people in the U.S. (including Christians) who view this human suffering with indifference or hostility and justify their attitudes by branding them all as criminals is appalling. Immigrants are among the least powerful persons in our society and are always the first to become scapegoats in a national crisis. This is a civil rights issue and Christians who find themselves justifying inhumane treatment of immigrants (documented or not) will be seen historically in much the same way as we now view Christians who supported slavery or segregation.


Stephanie Hansen writes from Santa Barbara, California:

I just wanted to thank you for the article written on Diana Villanueva-Hoeckley. She is a friend and classmate of mine at Westmont College and I am glad that there are great people like those from your magazine willing to support her in the midst of this mess. I agree that she should not be punished for something she had no control over and especially considering that she has been legally adopted by U.S. citizens.


Caleb Kemere writes from Menlo Park, California:

A few years ago, as a result of a promise from my father to his sister on her death bed to care for her two (orphan) daughters, my parents attempted to adopt them. As one had just turned 18, though legally a child of my parents, she was not allowed to immigrate to the U.S. (from Ethiopia). Though incredibly disheartened, as believers, my parents felt that they were precluded from the various more or less complicated (illegal) ways of circumventing the State Deptartment's decision. Reading David Batstone's article, I wonder if he thinks they erred.

Is it right for believers to break laws in order to make a good life? I agree 100% with the stance of Cardinal Mahony - as believers we are clearly called to show hospitality to strangers. However, I wonder to what extent believers here and around the world are willing to forego personal ease (e.g., by refusing to sneak into another country for economic reasons) to show a radical obedience to God. I think of Paul ordering Onesimus to return to Philemon, or even Jesus ("render to Caesar"). It seems to me that we are called to obey unpleasant laws though we can work to overturn them. In the same way, if I could vote to open our borders to free immigration, I would gladly do so even if it meant I would not live in a future that was as pleasant as the present.


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