Is anyone else out there frustrated with the situation in Darfur and what to do about it? i'm somehow on several different lists of groups who are concerned about Darfur and trying to do something about it, although I don't remember signing up for any... Most of the time what they seem to suggest is, "Let's have a rally and wave signs!" Does this actually accomplish anything? Perhaps, but not for a long time, and people are dying now.
So what do we, as Quakers, do about this sort of thing? This has been on my mind a lot, especially since watching "Hotel Rwanda" a year and a half ago or so. The genocide that happened in Rwanda and Burundi was awful--it's especially awful that the international community knew about it and yanked the peacekeeping forces out of there.
But what would I have wanted them to have done? If the UN forces had stayed, wouldn't they have also used violence to contain the situation? It seems like once it reaches the point of genocide, there's not much to be done besides keep it at bay with violence. Sure, hopefully we could see the problem coming and do something earlier to keep it from getting to that point, but once we're already there, what's the best course of action?
Here we are again, this time in Darfur, with genocide going on and the international community hesitating to get involved. Yes, we have talks about it and there are those who are actually working in the region, trying to keep the peace, but what can WE do? What are Quakers called to do in such circumstances? Should we all drop everything and go stand in the way of the guns? Should we personally take food to starving people so we know it reaches those who need it? Should we protest from home and try to break down the arms trade so that such things can't happen as easily because it's harder to get guns? Should we "just" pray?
There are groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams, Friends Peace Teams, Nonviolent Peace Force, and probably others, who are attempting to do the work of teaching nonviolent solutions to conflict resolution. These are great groups, but how many of us will actually go and help them? They can't at this point do anything in Darfur, because they don't have nearly the personnel to try such a thing. But what if they did? What if they had an army-sized group of individuals trained in nonviolent conflict resolution, willing to pay the "ultimate price" for standing for peace?
I'm reminded of some studying I did on Romans 12:17-21, which the NRSV translates like this:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As I studied this in Greek, I noticed that there's a lot going on here underneat the surface that we don't notice in English. What's important here is that Paul, as Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount, takes a normal way of living and asks followers of Christ to go further. Repaying evil for evil would seem to make sense, to be the just and equitable way of living, but he says take thought for what is noble. He tells us that as far as it depends on us, we are to live peaceably with everyone. We aren't to take revenge ourselves, but instead--and the Greek is very strong here--it is God and God alone who is to handle vengeance.
Then Paul switches from speaking to a group (you plural) to the individual: if your (singular) enemy is hungry, feed them. Supply their needs, and supply them even if you're not completely sure that they need it. Take action! Do something, and you can't just have others do it for you--it's your personal responsibility to do something about it.
Finally, overcome evil by staying fixed firmly, unwaveringly, in the good.
To me what's really important about this is that we're called to action. Peacemaking isn't passive, although it's because of our too-often passivity that pacifism has gotten a bad name. This is convicting to me--how about you? But it's still so hard to know what to do!
To get involved in an organization working on the Darfur situation, here are some links:
And there are many others...