Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Thousands Rally for Darfur

With “Save Darfur Now!” as their rallying cry, a crowd of thousands that included politicians, celebrities and hundreds of Georgetown students converged on the National Mall Sunday calling for an end to the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The rally was sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, a group of more than 160 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian associations. Participants aimed to pressure Congress and President Bush to take a more active role in ending the conflict.

The Hilltop group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur turned out at the rally in full force, sponsoring bus rides down to the Mall for hundreds of interested students.

“I feel like this is why I came to Georgetown, so that I can participate in our democratic process,” Tian Tian (SFS ’09) said at the rally. “If the United States continues only to think of things from an American perspective, then our image is only going to worsen.”

“I love rallies and stuff – power to the people,” attendee Patrick Eucalitto (SFS ’09), said. “People say [Darfur’s] not in the national interest, but humanity is the national interest.”

At least 180,000 people have died in Darfur and over two million others have been displaced from their homes and villages since the Sudanese government began arming Arab militias against the region’s rebel groups in 2003. The deadline for peace talks between rebels and government officials was extended to today after the rebels rejected an earlier peace deal earlier this week.

Paul Rusesabagina, a speaker at the rally whose story was made into the film “Hotel Rwanda,” encouraged students to take up the cause.

“What [students] have done today is one of the most important steps,” he said in an interview. “University students are the ones who can change the world. It’s in your hands.”

The coalition highlighted the four demands it has made on the Sudanese government – that it withdraw any objections to the presence of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, allow humanitarian organizations full access to the region, end the hostilities in Darfur by disarming the militias and fully commit to a lasting peace in the region.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who spoke at the rally, said in an interview that the United States and the United Nations must step up their involvement to promote peace negotiations in Darfur.

“[Darfur] calls for collective action,” he said. “This is the problem of the civilized world.”

Lantos was arrested Friday with four other members of Congress for blocking the entrance to the Sudanese Embassy during a protest.

The rally opened with an interfaith invocation by various faith leaders. The leaders each emphasized that “people of conscience and action together can stop genocide,” Rev. Bill Sinkford of the Unitarian Universalist Association said in an interview.

“The United States calls the disaster genocide and tries to stop it, but we can do more,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said during the rally. “We must do much more. Enough is enough.”

Various speakers who followed the invocation all called for greater awareness of the crisis in Darfur. They included George Clooney, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Rev. Al Sharpton, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek.

“The slaughter of innocents is wrong,” Obama said to an estimated 10-15 thousand supporters at the rally. “Silence in the face of justice is wrong. If we care, the world will care. If we act, the world will follow.”

The rally also served as a culmination for STAND’s national “Power to Protect” campaign, “a broad-based student campaign designed to call for protection of civilians in Darfur,” according to STAND national coordinator and spokesperson Nate Wright (COL ’06).

Wright, who co-founded the first chapter of STAND at Georgetown in 2004, has since seen the movement spread to include college campuses across the nation.

Georgetown’s STAND chapter held a national conference in February with almost 100 schools attending and organized a nationwide fast in April 2005, which drew participants over 40 universities.

“We originally did not realize that STAND would become a national movement,” Wright said. “We set out to educate others and ourselves; from our efforts we began to gain national recognition through established networks and the media.”

– HOYA Staff Writer Meg Charlton contributed to this report

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