Published: Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
A rally is being organized by a coalition of more than 50 Manatee and Sarasota organizations to bring attention to the conditions in Darfur and hoping to inspire people to show support of the preservation of humanity.
On April 19, Omer Ismail will bring his dire message, “Why the World Failed to Stop Genocide in Darfur,” to Sarasota as the keynote speaker of the third annual Humanity Working to End Genocide Rally for Darfur.
Ismail knows what it is like to be a refugee.
Born in El Fashir, Western Sudan, Ismail graduated from Khartoum University and worked as a research assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sudan. His work with international relief and development organizations continued until 1988, when he became operations manager for the United Nations Operation Life Line Sudan, the largest relief operation in the world at the time.
When the National Islamic Front took power in 1989, Ismail fled Sudan and has since lived as a refugee in the United States. Today, Ismail is the spokesman of the advocacy group Darfur Union and co-founder of Darfur Peace and Development.
According to the Sarasota-based Humanity Working to End Genocide, the Darfur atrocities are the first genocide of the 21st century to be acknowledged by the United Nations and international human rights organizations. Since the atrocities began more than four years ago, at least 400,000 have been killed. More than 3 million civilians were forced from their homes and now live in refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad.
“If we’re not careful, we will face the complete extinction of the Darfuri people,” said Robert Blinch Edwards, chairman of Humanity Working to End Genocide.
Because a vast majority of people are apathetic toward what is going on in Darfur, Edward said, work must become aggressive to stop the atrocities. While it’s true the United States has its own problems, Americans should still reach out around the world and help others survive, he said.
“We don’t have to worry about being attacked every moment of our lives,” Edwards said. “We don’t have to worry about our children being raped while walking to find clean drinking water or getting firewood. Most of the Darfuri people who are being attacked today are women and children, and we have to do something about it.”
Rally presenters also will include Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice; former Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Howard Simon, chairman of the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation Community Relations Council; and event committee members Trevor Harvey, president of the NAACP Sarasota Chapter, and Judy Weinstein, president of the Sarasota Manatee-Jewish Federation.
Three local choirs — Lift Every Voice Children’s Choir, St. Thomas More Contemporary Choir and the Westcoast School Chorus — will perform.
In the audience will be members of the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Boys & Girls Club Inc., Bradenton/Sarasota Chapter of the Links Inc., Chabad Lubavitch of Bradenton, Chabad of Venice and North Port, Church of the Palms, Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Congregation Kol Ha Neshama and Congregation Ner Tamid.
Others involved include: Covenant Mennonite Fellowship, the Diocese of Venice, Embracing Our Differences, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Florida Holocaust Museum, Florida Studio Theater, Girls Inc., Goodwill Industries Manasota Chaplaincy, Gurley, Dramis, Lazo law firm, Incarnation Catholic School, Jewish Center of Venice, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Inc., Manasota Branch of ASALH and MelEcho Productions.
Rally supporters also include the Manatee and Sarasota County branches of the NAACP, New College of Florida, ORT America, Greater Sarasota Area Council, Pax Christi, Florida, Peace Education and Action Center, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota-Manatee Board of Rabbis, Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation, Sarasota Equality Project, Sarasota Ministerial Association, Sarasota Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity, ShelterBox USA and the Southwest Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice.
Also, St. Martha Catholic School, Student Government of Sarasota High School, Synagogue Council of Sarasota-Manatee, Temple Beth El in Bradenton, Temple Beth El in North Port, Temple Beth Israel, Temple Beth Sholom, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Sinai, UNIFEM, Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, United Nations Association of Sarasota-Manatee, North Sarasota Cluster United Methodist Churches, University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Venice Peace Coalition, YMCA Sarasota and the Zenith Insurance Co.
“If everyone comes out to show their support, our outcome is very simple, to bring awareness to the people to what’s happening to Darfur so they can become active and do something about it,” Edwards said.