Friday, July 11, 2008

From Rwanda to Darfur: Have we forgotten?

In 1994, the Hutu ethnic group of Rwanda slaughtered close to one million human beings in their effort to purge the country of the Tutsis. Over the course of approximately one hundred days, the world turned its back as the genocide raged. The conflict was finally brought to an end when Tutsi militia drove the Hutu military out of the country. One million human beings were murdered, and no one lifted a finger or batted an eye. Now, fourteen years later, almost half a million people have lost their lives in the Darfur conflict, and again the world governments are turning a deaf ear to the cries for help.
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia loosely defines the conflict in Darfur as an ethnic and tribal military conflict encompassing Western Sudan. But the conflict has become rather one-sided. The Sudanese military government, together with the Janjaweed militia, has engaged in a full-scale genocide of its own subjects; murdering innocent civilians, raping women, and destroying homes and property. The war is estimated to have displaced more than two and a half million people, driving them to enter refugee camps where living conditions are unfathomably harsh. The international outcry against Darfur has largely been ignored by the Sudanese government. The UN has been ineffective in its peacekeeping attempts. And the conflict rages on, well into its fifth year and showing no signs of ending.
The UN seemed to have learned its lesson after the horrors of Rwanda. So why has the crisis in Darfur been allowed to continue? There seems to be no clear answer. Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, stated that: "this level of crisis, the killings, rape and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided ... Darfur would just not be in this situation had the UN systems got its act together after Rwanda: their action was too little too late." So half a million people have payed for this mistake with their lives. Has the UN become so ineffective that it can no longer accomplish what it was designed to do? And why have the rest of the world governments made no motion to intervene?
Public response to the conflict in Darfur has been extensive, but produced little results. And now we as Americans seem to be losing interest. Maybe the vast distance that separates us from them makes the news of the crises feel disconnected, like it is coming to us from another world. Our culture and lifestyle is so vastly different from theirs, it's easy to believe that somehow they are not our brothers and sisters. In the movie Hotel Rwanda, the African manager of a hotel tells a foreign journalist, "Once people see what's happening here, surely there will be help!" The journalist responds, "I think if people see this footage, they'll say 'Oh my God, how horrible!' and go on eating their dinners." Does that line hit home somewhere? It certainly does for me. I feel so helpless, sitting by and watching lives being destroyed. All I can do is pray that God will bring a swift end to the conflict and mend all those broken lives and hearts. And I'd encourage others to do the same. Maybe we can't single-handedly bring this disaster to an end, but we can at least petition the God of the universe to alleviate their suffering.


Youth Camp, BABY!

Youth Camp '08, besides the rough weather, the name, and the shortness of our stay: was awesome. We had four messages from four different pastors: Mr. O'Connelly (I think I spelled his name wrong), Mr. Breault (our pastor), Mr. Emerson (Richmond's pastor and leader of our region of churches), and Mr. Lechner (from Charlottevilles, I think?).
The natural beauty of the campus. It is a really nice place to visit, even if you didn't have a whole youth camp to go to. the part of the campus we stayed on was situated on a hill so you could see the surrounding countryside and everywhere you were going or had been.
the first night, (after Mr. O'Connelly's message: "aM i SaVEd?") we played soccer from about 11 to 1 using the light from the cafeteria area. we had fun and totally shud have played a SGC vs all comers game, but it never happened. That night Aaron and I stayed in Gabe's room (Gaaaaaaaaabe!) with Hulme and Lee. after like 2 am we really had no clue what we were saying or even what we were talking about.
The next day, after about 4 hrs of sleep, we had "face-to-face" time. I wont give an opinion about it, I really dont have one, but it was something Mr. O'Connelly had outlined briefly the night before. It was basically a talk with your parents. I'd love to hear from someone what their opinion of their 'face-to-face' time (cue: make a comment?). But anyway, after Mr. Breault's message on honoring our parents, we played ball (yes, I mean basketball) for most of the afternoon, (I had to stop after twisting my ankle), and the competition? Well, my team lost to the pastors (O'Connelly, Lechner, and the Chick), but the rest of the churches didn't really...well, we won eight straight in the winners court. so, whatev.
That night, after Mr. Emerson's message: "wHat iN The wORlD?", we watched (or more precisely: waited to watch for like an hour and then left five minutes after they began) fireworks.
everyone was out on the side of the highest hill on the campus to watch the fireworks the night of the fourth. The fireworks turned out to be a lot farther and more generic than we expected, but we had fun hanging there for a while.
that evening was wacked out. ya. we definitely hung out in the lounge doing practically nothing until curfew at midnight. Me and Aaron again stayed with our chaperone extraordinare, Gaaaaaaaabe! While me and Gabe lost consciousness around 2:30, Aaron and Jon Hewitt argued politics late into the wee hours of the morning.
Mr. Lechner's (a.k.a. Jeepers) message: iS It wORtH iT? was fenomenal. His communicated his key points with passion and clarity. I really enjoyed listening to him. this is a link to all the messages preached at youth camp. They are all worth listening to more than once.
after lunch we packed our things and left. Jordan and Mr. Melone rode in our car and Melone car took my mom, along with Laura and Emily Benson. Jord and I put the seats down and half-slept the rest of the way home. ya, youth camp was sweet.
the dudes with the matching shorts (stylin or not).

THE lunch table (and dinner table, and breakfast table) in fact, i dont think we really used any other table!
me, Keesh, Jord, and ST on the way home we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a small valley surrounded by 'mountains' (real mountain men would call them: 'hills') but the view was awesome and we had time for a couple of poses.

the parents were ok after the whirl of the retreat

the Bensons, Cagles, and Alyssa; we got this one off just before it started pouring
driving on the way home. if you could see through those tinted windows...well...i guess its a good thing you can't.

we really enjoyed the ride home but we really didn't do anything. me and jord were pretty comfortable:
Jord sporting the sweet shades
although you wouldn't be able to tell from this look inside the car, we had fun.