|Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur|
Local Anti-Genocide Group Hosts Survivor of Darfuri Genocide, Raises Local Awarenes
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View interview with El-Fadel Arbab
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Vernon, CT — A small crowd gathered on the evening of Thursday, December 9 at Trinity Lutheran Church to learn more about the Darfuri Genocide and an upcoming referendum in South Sudan. The evening ended with a candle light interfaith prayer for peace in Darfur and South Sudan led by Reverend Timothy Oslovich, Pastor at Trinity and Chair of the Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur, which sponsored the event.
On January 9, 2011, the South Sudanese, who are black Africans who practice mostly Christian and traditional religions, will vote on whether to secede and form their own country. The North is ruled by Arab ethnic groups from the capital, Khartoum. There have been severe conflicts between Khartoum and the South and between Khartoum and the western Darfur region. The South and North had been engaged in a civil war claiming 2.5 million lives and more than 20 years before a peace agreement in 2005 ended the war and established a referendum on southern independence in 2011. War could break out again because the North does not want to lose revenues from oilfields in the South.
In Darfur, the Sudanese Armed Forces and Janjaweed militias purposely targeted civilians and committed atrocities, which many, including the U.S. Government, have called genocide. Between 300,000 and 400,000 people have died from causes related to the violence since 2003. About 2.7 million Darfuris live in internally displaced persons camps, dependent on international humanitarian aid for survival. People venturing outside the camps are attacked, raped, and killed regularly.
On Thursday night the group watched The Devil Came on Horseback, detailing former Marine Captain Brian Steidle's experience as a military observer with the African Union in Darfur in 2004, at the height of the genocide. Afterward, the group heard the eye-witness testimony of El-Fadel Arbab, a Darfuri survivor who was a child when his village was attacked by a militia in the early 1990s. His attackers tried to kill him by forcing him into a burn hut, but he managed to escape through an opening and fled into the wilderness. He sought the shelter of a nearby town, where a restaurant worker gave him food. He made his way to Khartoum and survived at a dump with other children. At one point, Mr. Arbab heard news that his mother was living in a camp for displaced persons, went to retrieve her, and made his way to Egypt with her and other members of his family. In Egypt, he waited over four years before he was granted a visa to come to the United States in 2004. He was settled in Portland, ME where he still lives. In 2009, he gained U.S. citizenship. On Thursday, Arbab told the group, "I must tell my story. I must be the voice for so many Darfuris in Sudan and even in the US who are too scared to speak." Arbab believes that the more people know about the genocide in Darfur, the more people will take action to stop the violence.
Reverend Timothy Oslovich is the Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vernon and the Chair of the Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur. Joshua Schreier is Media Representative for the Connecticut Coalition and a Carl Wilkens Fellow with the Genocide Intervention Network.