Students target Darfur crisis

BY ROBERT L. BAKER
But the greater tragedy, according to some 200 Tunkhannock Area High School students, their teachers, local pastors and musicians is a people that will not be roused from their complacency.

Their message was loud and clear on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, when the weather was beckoning people outdoors.

Instead, the scope of a late afternoon session on raising consciousness about Darfur, led by TA social studies coordinator Gloria Shebby was a sobering look at images most people would rather not see.

Guitarist Lorne Clarke, who shared some music at the front end of the program, spoke of the genocide that had taken place about 14 years earlier in Rwanda when some 800,000 people had been killed across 100 days.

He said that what was going on now in Darfur was “a longer, slower process, but much more brutal and against people trying to survive, but being forced into a desert where it is near impossible to survive.”

“That you are here is a little piece of hope,” he smiled at the audience.

However, he acknowledged, “there is a tendency for all of us to focus on what we have going on in our own lives. We shouldn’t let that overwhelm our responsibility as human beings. We need people on the ground stopping this slaughter.”

He noted, “None of us are killing the people of Darfur, but we can construct avenues of enabling when we let other countries think it’s okay to take care of matters in their own hands and we look the other way.”

Pastor John Shaffer shared about a 20-minute sermon in which he challenged those gathered to “Pay it forward,” borrowing from a movie that had been released in the past decade.

“Throughout history, we have read about wholesale genocides and became aware of them after the fact,” he said. “That we know anything about this one fills us with a responsibility not to keep our mouths shut.”

By paying it forward, he encouraged those present to tell three people about the crisis and make sure they each tell three, and so on and so in time the whole world might get the picture.

“You students need to educate the older folks in your homes, in your society,” he added.

“You might ask what one small community can do about a crisis like this,” Shaffer said, noting that he has a family with four children, the oldest of whom is 20.

“I can’t imagine what life would be like for a family in Darfur,” Shaffer said, “but I know it’s not what God would want us to watch on the sidelines.”

“Christ tells us that if we can dream dreams that are God’s and not our own, we can do anything,” Shaffer said.

“You folks have so much power, you have so much going for you, and Christ reminds us that it is so simple: Love your neighbor as yourself,” he added.

“In other words, make it personal,” Shaffer said. “hese persons have basic desires like us of love, security and happiness. That has been taken away. That is heart wrenching.”

He reminded the audience that some faithful person had not given up on them, and they likewise should not do so for the people of Africa.

“This is just a starting point,” he said. “We have the power to move it forward, Let’s not forget that.”

The 2-hour program opened with the TA choir singing “Shosholoza” translated as “go forward or make way for the next man.”

And that’s just what the group did after Clarke’s music but before Shaffer’s sermon.

The group dispersed for about 20 minutes to be involved in learning stations where they could educate themselves about the history of the crisis as well as be involved in signing petitions to elected officials

“By raising awareness, that’s how changes are going to take place,” Shebby admonished the group.

A band known as the Controband, closed out the evening with its own brand of consciousness raising.

To learn more about the problems facing the people of Darfur, check out savedarfurcoalition.org