Some 250 activists gathered outside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on Sunday to condemn the continuing mass atrocities in South Sudan.
The 2.5-mile interfaith “Walk to End Genocide” was organized by leaders of Washington Hebrew Congregation and Jewish World Watch. It featured speeches from Sudanese survivors and religious leaders. Parents brought their children to teach them about violence happening in another part of the world.
“It’s still genocide like it was,” said organizer Richard Young of Washington Hebrew Congregation, “and yet it seems as though the world is tired of hearing about it. The world sits idly by. It’s beyond my understanding.”
Like many speakers at the event, Young said his goal was to keep South Sudan on the Obama administration’s agenda.
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011. In 2013, fighting between the rebel militia and the government escalated into a civil war. With several thousand people killed and over a million people displaced by violence, South Sudan is facing famine with continued mass atrocities, according to the Washington-based nonprofit United to End Genocide.
“The real question is why would we come out on a rainy day and come once again, year after year, to try and do some things to end genocide?” asked Rabbi Bruce Lustig, of Washington Hebrew Congregation. “I think as a Jewish community, coming out after we finished Pesach, when we’re commanded to mark our doorposts with the paschal blood, reminds us that we have to sometimes have revolution to seek resolution. We need something that’s going to move us to remove the misery, and we can’t do that without standing up.”
Lustig continued, “We can’t sit, especially as Jews, on the sidelines, and continue to keep seeing what’s happening in South Sudan, in Darfur, in so many corners of our world, where neglect is created, and the dissonance has created a horrible situation for so many people. As Jews, we have a moral obligation to stand up. Today is about we are one human family.”
The fighting has left hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced. Some, like Gutti Kanjam, a man born in Sudan, attended the rally.
“I think that the Sudanese people will hopefully soon succeed in their fight against the oppressive Sudanese regime, especially with the worsening of the country’s economy,” said Kanjam, a student at George Mason University. “This can happen in at least two ways: popular uprising or political settlement.”
Amy Friedman Cecil of Jewish World Watch in Los Angeles said her work opposing genocide is urgent.
“It’s comes from the Torah, our shared history,” she said. “Jews are in a good place to understand about the importance of speaking out against genocide, and to raise awareness. None of this is easy work, but we’re all try to do our part.”