Tue, May 02, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Thousands rally in US in support of Darfur

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

In front of thousands of people rallying on the mall in Washington, religious leaders, politicians and celebrities urged Americans and the Bush administration to do more to help end the ethnic and political conflict in Darfur.

The rally in the capital was one of nearly 20 events across the country sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 160 organizations.

The Washington event attracted dozens of speakers including Democratic Senator Barack Obama; Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; the Reverend Al Sharpton; actor George Clooney; Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek; and the country music group Big & Rich.

Since the House approved a Declaration of Genocide in Darfur in 2004, the House and Senate have urged stronger peacekeeping missions and approved billions of dollars in aid to Sudan and the Darfur region of the East African nation.

That is not enough, demonstrators and speakers said on Sunday.

Dominic Oduho, 32, came to the US as a refugee from southern Sudan six years ago. He now lives in Dallas in a community with about 200 Sudanese, but he said he hopes to rejoin his parents back in Sudan.

With tears in his eyes, Oduho said: "I'm personally moved by the way the American people are supporting us -- the faces here -- there are almost more white people than black people. This message is not a message that will remain here."

Many in the crowd said the Save Darfur rally was the first rally of any kind they had attended. For others it was their first in decades.

Esther Muencz, 64, and her husband Tamas, 65, both Holocaust survivors, left Cleveland, Ohio, at around 4am to travel here by bus with members of their synagogue.

"I was one of the hidden children, taken in by a gentile family in Poland," Esther Muencz said.

"If somebody would have done this when they murdered 6 million of us, maybe some would have been saved," she said.

Elizabeth King, 43, drove from Maplewood, New Jersey, with her husband and daughter Sophie, who is 7.

"My husband and I got home late last night and thought about how hard the long drive down here today would be," King said.

"But you feel different when you're a parent. You feel more of an obligation to teach your children and follow through. Our discomfort for getting up and driving here early is nothing compared to what's going on in Darfur," Elizabeth King said.

Last year, Sophie and her friends set up a lemonade stand and raised US$30 for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

She said she wants to do the same for the people of Darfur.

"It made me sad that all the people are getting hurt in Africa," she said.

Another participant, Suzanne Thompson of New Hampshire, had created signs using copies of Sudanese children's artwork she printed from the Web.

"I haven't spoken out for a while -- I'm embarrassed to say the last time was Vietnam -- but this seemed very important," she said.

"It's important as a mother, a grandmother and a former school teacher, to speak out for other human beings. If we speak out, our country will hear us and the world will hear us," she said.

Stephen Kiir, 30, also from the Sudanese community in Dallas, said: "When I came here today, I thought it would be Sudanese alone. I thought we were the only people suffering in the world, but there are other people suffering even more than us.

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