Reflections on “End Genocide Now”

photo by Rev. Wilfredo Benitez for Orange County for Darfur

By: Wilfredo Benitez, Priest and Photographer.

End Genocide Now! People from all over Orange County come to lay their bodies on the moist sand of the beach at Corona del Mar, the “Crown of the Ocean.” I take their picture as they spell the words: “End Genocide Now.” As I take their photograph I visualize a dry desert, a scene from Darfur in the Sudan where hundreds of thousands have already been killed. The people laying on the sand symbolically representing those whose lives have been brutalized and taken. By the time I am done with the post editing of the picture a feeling of loss and desolation emanate from the image. It is no longer a colorful image of a beach in Southern California but an image of mourning and despair. A beautiful beach in an affluent county is transformed into a dry desert with the signs of a soothing cool surf no longer visible. Darfur and Corona Del Mar become one place united by a common bond of humanity.

Darfur is a place of brutality, a place where mercy has dried-up. Although the world has vowed that there would never be another genocide, the genocide rages on fueled by a desire for ethnic cleansing, built on a foundation of economic oil interests. Most of the world goes about its business oblivious to the suffering. It would appear that Black Africans who are the victims of a genocide are not important enough for the world to be outraged, and our own federal government has better things to do these days like provide 700 billion dollar bailouts to reckless and unregulated banking institutions. Perhaps the phrase “Never Again” does not apply to the victims of the Janjuweed hidden away in the Sudan? When did we become this way?

Residents from Orange County come to lie down on the beach, each becoming a symbol of compassion and caring, each rejecting indifference, each trying desperately to bring to the world’s attention (and our government leaders) that our brothers and sisters are being murdered and brutalized by the hundreds of thousands. The photograph that emerges is a witness to caring, it is a call to action and justice. This is an image that has the power to break down barriers of indifference, if only we would take a moment to view it through the eyes of peace with justice, to penetrate it, and let it penetrate us. Thankfully the volunteers who attended the photo-shoot, can go on with their lives, they can rise from the sand and shake it off. This is not the case for those in Darfur whose lives has become a living hell. When I contemplate the picture, it seems the lifeless forms on the sand are imbued by the spirit of the dead who scream the words: “End Genocide Now!”

Wilfredo Benitez is a priest and the Rector of St. Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Garden Grove (www.saintanselmgg.org) AKA St. Elsewhere. He is also a passionate photographer with a contemplative prophetic eye (www.benitezrivera.com).

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About Anshul
I feel therefore I am.

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