SAN FRANCISCO–Armenian-American community members joined other concerned citizens at the San Francisco Civic Center to raise public awareness about continuing massacres in Sudan. The event–"Sudan: Day of Conscience," was organized by the Save Darfur Coalition in tandem with several other organizations–including the Bay Area Armenian National Committee–the Interfaith Council–Human Rights Watch–the Jewish Community Relations–and the United Muslims of America. Reverend Father Avedis Torossian–pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church–and Reverend Father Sarkis Petoyan–pastor of St. John Armenian Apostolic Church–were also present to express their solidarity.
In light of the escalating violence and the looming threat of genocide in Sudan–representatives spoke about the desperate need to unite and take action on regional–state–nation–and global levels. Referring to the recent past–they illustrated the deadly consequences of international indifference to gross human rights violations. It was only ten years ago that the genocide in Rwanda took the lives of 800,000 victims as the world stood by idly–despite the many warning signs of the atrocities.
In Sudan–government-backed Arab militias–the Janjaweed–have been engaging in a campaign to displace and wipe out entire communities of African tribal farmers. Witnesses report that entire villages have been razed–women and girls systematically raped and branded–men and boys murdered–and food and water supplies specifically targeted and destroyed.
There are also accounts of government aerial bombardmen’s of explosives–along with barrels of nails–car chassis–and old appliances which are hurled from planes in order to crush people and property. Over fifty thousand have died and over a million have been driven from their homes. Only in the past few weeks have humanitarian agencies had limited access to a portion of the affected region.
Representing the ANC–Haig Baghdassarian addressed the several hundred people gathered; he traced the bloody history of the 20th century–beginning with the Armenian genocide and the genocides that followed as a result of international reluctance to take action.
"When will we learn that we cannot tolerate this to happen time and time again? Perhaps not until–we as Americans–can tell our Turkish allies–that although we may be friends–we will not allow them to deny history and escape with impunity for the murder of a nation–and perhaps–not until we as Americans can come to terms with our own bloody past–and the destruction of the indigenous peoples of America."
"But these noble goals may take years or even decades to achieve–and we cannot stand by and watch yet another genocide occur–whether it’s in central Europe or in the heart of Africa–or on the very periphery of human civilization," said Bagdassarian.
The event demonstrated how a common–tragic event in the histories of the Armenian–Jewish–Cambodian–and Rwandan people can unite them in trying to prevent genocide from becoming a dark chapter in the lives and history of another people.