Mass Atrocity Crimes Watch List

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Genocide Prevention Project, sponsor of April 2009 Genocide Prevention Month, published a Mass Atrocity Crimes Watch List for 2008 – 2009.

The list identifies countries of high concern based on factors such as exclusionary ideology, discrimination, and presence of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The number of countries included on the list?

5? 10? 15?

How about 33!

The crimes occurring in some countries on the list have escalated to genocide (Sudan for example). One can only hope that a similar fate does not await the others.

War: Through the Eyes of a Child

Flash back to your childhood when you drew pictures that your parents proudly displayed on the family refrigerator for all to see.

What did you draw in your pictures? Your family? Friends? Pets? House? Birds, rainbows, and flowers?

Now take a look at some pictures drawn by children growing up in Darfur.

What do you see? Soldiers. Weapons. Blood. Violence. Destruction.

With the Darfur crisis now six years too long, there are kids in refugee camps who have experienced nothing but war for their entire lives. They draw what they know – and what they know is war.

In the words of one child artist –

It is very kind to send us food, but this is Africa and we are used to being hungry. What I ask is that you please take the guns away from the people who are killing us.

Never again? A Darfur refugee speaks

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Jewish World Watch joins with University Synagogue and the Irvine United Congregational Church (IUCC) in hosting a talk by Adam Abakar, Darfuri activist and survivor of the genocide in his country.

Adam will speak at University Synagogue about his experiences in Darfur and a call to action.  Our Religious School students will give Jewish World Watch a check for money that they raised by selling Potholders for Peace.  At the reception following the talk, we will have an opportunity to be part of a digital postcard urging President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to take action immediately to end the slaughter in Sudan.

Come to this moving and important event.  Here is the flyer for the event.

Talk by Adam Abaker
Wednesday, March 4th at 7:30p

University Synagogue
3400 Michelson Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Sudan and Rebels Make Deal

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Today, the Sudanese government and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) drafted a “declaration of good intentions”.

The deal reportedly includes an agreement to cease attacks on IDP camps in Darfur and the refugees who call them home.

The agreement is to be signed Tuesday.

Both the Sudanese government and JEM know that while this deal is significant, it alone will not bring peace to Darfur. More work lies ahead.

The Human Response to Mass Suffering

Courtesy of Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

The Washington Post recently published a great article that provides insight as to why human beings look the other way when it comes to incidents of mass suffering (such as Darfur).

Logically, a person should care twice as much about atrocities which take 100 lives than atrocities which take 50.

However, in reality, the events which grab our hearts the most are often those which claim the lives of few rather than the lives of many.

According to Paul Slovic, a professor at the University of Oregon –

The first loss of life is very precious, but we don’t react very much to the difference between 88 deaths and 87 deaths. You don’t feel worse about 88 than you do about 87.

Experiments conducted by Slovic showed that people preferred saving 4,500 lives at a refugee camp of 11,000 people over the same number of lives at a refugee camp of 100,000. Additionally, people preferred saving 10,000 lives from a disease which killed 20,000 each year over saving 20,000 lives from a disease which killed 290,000.

People were responding not to the number of lives saved but the percentage of lives saved. The mathematical side of our brain could tell us the absolute number of victims saved is more important than the percentage of survivors, but our analytical side isn’t usually in charge.

Slovic believes that a person will be drawn to crises in which they can save all or most of the victims but will turn away from crises in which they can save only a fraction of the victims.

Slovic’s research may answer the question of why people have not responded stronger to tragedies like Darfur. However, another question, perhaps even more important, now emerges – what can we do to combat the human instinct to turn away?

Living Like a Darfur Refugee

Two members of Stop Genocide Now, a grassroots organization aimed at education, advocacy, and policy change, decided to find out what it is really like to be a refugee in Darfur.

For one month, the men adhered to a diet similar to that of individuals in Darfur’s IDP camps (1,000 calories per day of only wheat).

The experiment was documented through journals, pictures, and videos. Check it out.

Why would these two people put themselves through such agony?

In the words of participant Eric Angel –

I can extrapolate my experience and empathize even more with the Darfurians’ struggle. From what I have experienced through all of this, I believe that if people try to empathize by connecting experiences, they will feel more connected to the struggles of others and will therefore be more motivated to help in the fight for peace, justice, and LIFE.

Empathy is the greatest of virtues.

Eric lost 23 pounds during the 30 days. He and his partner also experienced adverse side effects such as severe weakness, muscle aches, and distraction.

And, just think, this was one month. Imagine five plus years.

Life in a Displacement Camp

69“We are not able to go back to our villages and we are not able to stay here safely, so we are not thinking about life now”.

BBC has published a great article about the daily struggles that accompany living in a Darfur refugee camp and their impact on men, women, and youth. Check it out.