"Olympic torch relay to highlight refugee crisis
Indianapolis will serve as a stop on the route to Beijing for the Dream for Darfur Olympic Torch Relay on Oct. 14.
Organized by the local chapter of Save Darfur, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness about the atrocities in the region, the event will be held at IUPUI and will feature a variety of speakers, including two Darfurian refugees.
The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when fighting broke out between non-Arab rebel groups and the government-backed Arab militias known as the Janjaweed. An August 2007 report by the United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have died, while 2.2 million have been internally displaced.
“I think a lot of people have the attitude that in Africa they’re used to this,” said Carol Collins, chairwoman of the Indianapolis chapter of Save Darfur, “but there is no mother who ever gets used to seeing her child sick or ever gets used to the fact that her child was shot while on her back. … No one gets used to having to leave their home and go live in a country where the people don’t want them.”
The goal of the relay is to encourage China, the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, to use its influence with Khartoum to bring an end to the atrocities and boost security forces on the ground for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.
According to Save Darfur, China is Sudan’s largest trading partner and consumer of Sudanese oil. The Chinese government also has a history of selling arms and weapons to Khartoum.
“They’re very proud to host the Olympic Games, and if you look at the Olympics it’s all about goodwill and peace and promoting humanity,” Collins said. “We’re just hoping that if we can bring this attention to them, it almost forces them, in order to protect their reputation, to really act.”
Collins, a stay-at-home mother of two, became involved with Save Darfur after a missions trip to Northern Uganda, where she worked at a medical clinic for three days. Now, at just over 3 months old, the local Save Darfur group Collins heads has three objectives: to educate themselves, to educate the community and facilitate them into action.
“[The level of support] has been amazing to me. Normally when you have volunteers at an organization, people check in and out when they want to,” Collins said. “People are fired up.”
The international torch relay, which began Aug. 9 on the border between Chad and Darfur, will conclude its tour of the U.S. on Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C.
WHAT: Dream for Darfur Olympic torch relay
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2-4p.m.
WHERE: IUPUI Campus, Pyramid Fountain, New York Street
The Darfur dilemma
To learn more about the situation in Darfur or the torch relay, visit the following sites:
Save Darfur: www.savedarfur.org
Dream for Darfur: www.dreamfordarfur.org
U.N. Sudan Information Gateway: www.unsudanig.org
UNAMID, Web site for the African Union/United Nations joint operation in Darfur created in July 2007: www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unamid/