While the eyes of the world are glued to the spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, members of the Jewish World Watch, activists, clergy and other protesters staged a march recently in front of the Chinese consulate to protest China’s involvement in the suppression of the Sudanese people.
Nearly 200 protesters waved signs and called for the Chinese to discontinue their support of the Sudanese government, which has been responsible for thousands of deaths as well as thousands of Darfurians being relocated to refugee camps along the Chad border.
China is one of Sudan’s closest allies and is one of the greatest sources of Sudan’s arms, including helicopters and fighter aircraft. The Sudan is also considered the chief diplomatic sponsor, major weapons provider, largest foreign investor and trade partner.
Protesters are urging that China use its platform as host of the Olympic Games to lead the world in bringing an end to the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
The United Nations estimates that the Sudanese conflict has left as many as 400,000 dead from violence and disease. In March 2007, the UN mission accused Sudan’s government of orchestrating and taking part in “gross violations” in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who appeared at the protest, decried the human rights atrocities that she personally witnessed in Darfur. “I went to Darfur and saw women and children sleeping on the ground. Women did not have health care. If they went to get firewood, they were raped. This is a terrible atrocity and you are at the forefront,” she told protesters. “We must not let up on China.”
Rabbi Ari Leubitz of B’nai David reflected, “I have to tell you I like sports and the Olympics, but this is about calling attention to our host country that is guilty of murder and promotes terrorism. Sports and politics cannot continue as normal. Ultimately, it is a responsibility of every single Jew to reach out to the people whose voices cannot be heard and to Darfurian women who do not know, when they go out to gather firewood for their families, if this is their last day on earth. How will we respond to the victims in Darfur when we made a promise after the Holocaust, never again? We must ensure that this does not go on one day longer. We know what is right and we know what needs to be done.”
Rabbi Joshua Levin-Grater of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center stated, “We stand here today not in protest of Olympic athletes, but China should not be getting a pass. China is Sudan’s largest importer. China has furnished 90% of Sudan’s weapons since 1994. Join me in calling for justice. We are the people of Darfur, we owe the world more than an empty slogan.”
Samuel Chu of Immanuel Presbyterian Church said, “I agree with Martin Luther King who said ‘A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We have a responsibility and obligation to humanity that we speak truth about the violence against the people in Darfur. We must also not only speak to the Chinese consulate but to all people that they can do something right now. At the end of the day, we strive to speak as people with power. I call on us to continue to march.”