Planes bomb villages. Women are raped. Men on horses and camels shoot machine guns at helpless victims. These are not stories from the cable news networks, these are descriptions of children’s drawings.
The artwork was on display as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness about the growing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The artwork was exhibited from Feb. 17 to 28 at the Hillel, with a special interdenominational event the night of Feb. 28 featuring a 60 Minutes segment about Darfur.
The story finds its origin in the midst of a human rights campaign. According to Samantha Orshan, Arison Israel Program Associate at Hillel, the charitable organization Human Rights Watch, traveled to Darfur and conducted interviews with parents. Children were given paper and crayons to pass the time.
The children started drawing “horrible images [of] rape and bombings and murder,” Orshan said.
The event also featured guest speaker John Prendergast, senior advisor of the International Crisis Group, and investigative reporter from the 60 Minutes Darfur segment.
Prendergast drew parallels between the Darfur situation today and the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
“Militias do most of the killing [in order to] turn people against each other,” he said.
Approximately 300,000 have been killed in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003, according to Prendergast, as opposed to 800,000 dead in just 100 days in Rwanda.
“There is still time to act for Darfur,” said Prendergast.
Prendergast said governments portray the matters in Darfur much more complicated than they really are, and that they engage in moral equivalency.
Orshan finds the event important because of lessons learned from world history.
“When I looked back on the Holocaust I found out that people knew about it but didn’t do anything,” he said.
Orshan stressed the idea that humans should take “collective responsibility for each other.”
UM students echoed Orshan’s sentiments.
“It’s important that we raise awareness about what’s going on in our world,” Kristine Kaminskas, a freshman, said. “It’s only going to get worse.when [the Darfur children] grow up if nothing is done,” she said.
The news media is not doing enough to properly cover the Darfur situation, according to Orshan.
“Unfortunately, [coverage is] disgraceful,” she said. “If I had a billboard on the UM campus that said ‘Save Darfur,’ most people would not know what Darfur means.”
Prendergast said one problem lies with the response from international leaders.
“Governments and the UN apply humanitarian band-aids over gaping wounds,” said Prendergast.
Orshan said students eager to help can get involved with the Darfur effort by visiting SaveDarfur.org, where they can fill out an e-postcard that will be sent to President Bush. The website is operated by the Million Voices Campaign. Students can also call or stop by Hillel on campus to get a wristband.
“If we stand idly by this time the responsibility is all ours,” Prendergast said.
Jason Albrecht can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.