I said previously I would post my church magazine article about my ‘Darfur Appeal’ here. You may recognise the first paragraph from my original entry on the subject (see ‘the breaking of the walls’) – I needed something to start me off!
Lately I feel like God has been softening my heart towards the world. I don’t mean that I am hard hearted, but if we are honest with ourselves, we build up walls around us in order to deal with the horrors we hear of or see on the screen. We don’t know how to deal with it, we feel helpless, so some mechanism inside us shuts down our vision and we look away – we walk by on the other side.
In hindsight, I can see God has been preparing me for a new vision for my life. With all my struggles and limitations, it could be easy to consider everything has been ‘put on hold’, but this is not true. Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the things we think define us – the things we get involved in, the use of our talents and gifts, the areas in which we have been comfortable or excelled.
Thus when one day a leaflet fell out of a magazine, my whole vision for life changed. This leaflet was about the women in Darfur. It was about how these women have to travel out of the internal displacement camps to collect firewood and water, and in doing so are frequently attacked and raped by members of the Janjaweed, the militia backed by the Sudanese Government. Every time they leave the camp, they know they are in desperate danger of gang rape and sexual violence. If their husbands go, they are frequently killed and mutilated, if they haven’t been already. The choice is a desperate one. God had been preparing me; all my defences were down; my Western apathy had been taken off-line. And I was cut to the heart. Suddenly I was feverish in my attempts to find out more, to understand more about the situation. I found myself weeping uncontrollably, with a grief that was not just my own but completely overtook me.
The situation in Darfur has boiled and simmered over the last few years, coming on and off our screens. Despite the peace agreement signed by one faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Sudanese government in May 2006, the effects and violence continue. Many women and children have been victims of mass rape, and today still they are in danger. As of last year, the Sudanese government has, in theory, agreed to sending in peacekeeping forces to protect the civilians of Darfur. However, they have still not been fully deployed. Who will protect the civilians of Darfur? The violence and rape, the fear and the trauma, continue.
Sitting in our lounge on an ordinary day in England, I knew I had to do something. Often, as I said at the beginning, these things overwhelm us, so we shut down, even if unintentionally. We are initially appalled, but life goes on and our awareness of the suffering and pain of others fade away as daily life continues. But just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we can’t do something, even if it seems so small to us, compared to the vastness of the problems faced.
Here is what I am doing. Firstly, I am trying my best to understand and get to know the situation better, so that I can inform others and inspire them to get involved. I know it is so easy to get muddled and confused by world issues, when they are so many and so desperate. Secondly, and related to this, I hope to be able to pray more relevantly, knowing the issues. Thirdly, I have decided to raise money for the people of Darfur through the charity World Vision. I have begun to put together a small anthology of my poems, entitled Fragile World. For every £5 donation made to this cause, I will give one of these booklets of poems. This, for now, is my ‘something’, my response. So often we feel guilty about what we don’t do, but I feel instead that we should be encouraged about what we can do. There is always something – always.
World Vision has a Darfur Crisis Appeal which works in a variety of ways with the people of Darfur in the Internal Displacement Camps. This includes specific work with the women who have been victims of sexual violence, and also ways of reducing the risk of this violence. They are also in the process of setting up a literacy programme specifically for the women of Darfur. If anyone is particularly interested, I can provide further information on their work, and will also endeavour to outline it further in later magazines – this article would be too long otherwise! You can also go to www.worldvision.org.uk. If you wish to give a donation and receive a copy of Fragile World, please let me know (they will be available from the first week of August). Cheques should be made payable to World Vision; I will mark them for the Darfur Appeal and the charity will allocate them accordingly.
This was of course written before recent events and so does not mention the charges brought against the Sudanese President by the ICC, and any related concerns or events.