Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good News in the Effort to Stop Genocide in Darfur

Last year, I had the privilege to help lobby the Indiana General Assembly to adopt legislation that required Indiana's public pension funds to, essentially, divest from companies whose business was assisting the government of Sudan with the ongoing genocide in Darfur. One senator asked me why that particular conflict was worth more consideration than other conflicts around the world. My answer to him was simple: Genocide. Genocide is different than other disputes. Genocide is not a question of political viewpoints or geopolitical strategies. Genocide is a core human rights issue that transcends nationality, race, religion, or politics.

That same senator then asked me why I cared so much about Darfur. His question, put far more bluntly than when it was asked, was really why I, a Caucasian, non-African, non-Muslim cared so much about the plight of the people of Darfur. Once again, my answer was simple. For more than sixty years we've heard and voiced the refrain "never again" with regard to genocide in the form of the Holocaust. Yet, genocide has continued. If we truly mean for "never again" to really mean never again, then we have to stand up and do what we can to put a stop to genocide when it occurs.

Thus, I was gratified when I saw the announcement from Steven Spielberg that he was withdrawing from his position as artistic director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games this summer. In his statement, Spielberg said:

I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual.

At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.

Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering.

China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change.
I commend Spielberg on his decision to take this position and to do so with a public statement. Hopefully, China will finally get the message that viewing the world solely from an economic or geopolitical perspective will not always be tolerated by people of conscience. China is learning to flex its economic and political muscle; now China must learn to flex that muscle for the greater good of humanity.

To learn more about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, please visit SaveDarfur. To learn more about why Spielberg and others believe it is appropriate to put pressure on China, please visit Olympic Dream for Darfur.

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