Transitions Abroad Magazine Sept/Oct 2004, Vol. XXVIII NO. 2
Abroad at Home
Back Door Travel
The Best Work Abroad & International Resources
Program New & Notes
From the Editor
I began this letter on June 18, designated “World Refugee Day,” a day to celebrate the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) to find homes for displaced people. While the number of refugees, internally displaced people, and others helped by the UNHCR last year fell to 17.1 million—the lowest annual total in a decade—the world’s must pressing crisis, the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, continues to worsen. More than a million people there have been forced from their homes, and at least two million have been affected in other ways. All but obscured in the U.S. by the attention to Iraq, Darfur’s war between pro-government Arab militias and African tribal rebels is a humanitarian disaster and threatens the peace agreement recently signed by the government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement to end the horrific North-South war.
Nicholas D. Kristof, in his June 16 opinion column in The New York Times, pointed out the absurdity of the Bush administration’s statement that it was “exploring whether to describe the mass murder and rape in the Darfur region as ‘genocide.’” He went on to write, “The world has acquiesced shamefully in the Darfur genocide, perhaps because 320,000 deaths this year (a best-case projection from the U.S. Agency for International Development) seems like one more boring statistic.”
Kristof’s sentiments echo those of international journalist Julie Flint, who spent March and April in Sudan and Chad researching her report for Human Rights Watch. In an interview with David Brancaccio on “Now with Bill Moyers,” she rebuked the world for not giving Darfur attention before the crisis escalated.
On the positive side, Transitions Abroad advertiser CARE, which has worked with the people of Sudan since 1979 to help them overcome extreme poverty, is actively addressing the Dafur crisis. It is working with partner organizations in the area to persuade the Sudanese government to promote access to communities in need and to ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian workers, and supplies.
In this issue we focus on organizations like CARE and on the spirit of individual volunteerism that grew out of efforts such as the international work camps established to rebuild Europe after World War II. The world relies on the tremendous goodwill of individuals to make a valuable difference in the lives of so many of its people—those like Kimberly Walker, who writes about helping women achieve rights in Tanzania, and Joanne Fitzgerald, who writes about building houses in Matagalpa.
There is also plenty we can do from home. While our new section “Abroad at Home” focuses mainly on embracing international culture and art in our daily American lives, it also speaks to how we can remain internationally involved with important causes. This first installment of “Abroad at Home” offers a sidebar listing reputable aid agencies that are assisting in the effort to relieve the Darfur crisis. I encourage you to visit these websites and consider how you can help.
At the time this issue went to press, the U.S. House of Representatives had adopted unanimously a resolution saying that the Bush administration should call the atrocities in Darfur "by its rightful name: 'genocide'." The House urged the Bush administration to consider "multilateral or even unilateral intervention to prevent genocide should the U.N. Security Council fail to act.”