Many people who have followed the complicated conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan, believe the war became a case of genocide five years ago this month. Since that time, some estimate there have been up to 400,000 casualties while more than 2.5 million Darfurians have been displaced from the region. Despite those staggering statistics, many Iowans are unfamiliar with what’s happening in Darfur.
Brenda Schumann of Ankeny is one activist in the state trying to raise awareness about the genocide. During the Iowa Caucus campaign, she wore a bright orange shirt with white letters stating "I Caucus for Darfur."
"I wore it to church one time, because I just wanted to make people aware," Schumann says, "and someone asked me ‘who’s Darfur?’ Like he was one of the presidential candidates…so, definitely, there needs to be this awareness." Schumann says she’s amazed by the lack of media coverage.
"Look at how much time is spent on Britney Spears and little time is spent on an issue like Darfur," Schumann said. Schumann says she donates money to charities like CARE.org , genocideintervention.net and savedarfur.org.
She says charities like CARE are focused on humanitarian aid and assisting those in refugee camps. "My thoughts are that Genecide Intervention and Save Darfur are trying to get at the root of the problem so we don’t need refugee camps," Schumann said. "I do donate money both ways because there’s a need both ways." Schumann tries to attend monthly meetings of a group called "Des Moines for Darfur."
She says she was especially moved by a presentation from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof at Drake University last year. "He showed some pictures that were very disturbing, but they need to be shown," Schumann said. "Like he said, it’s not even the number of people that have been killed…it’s just the terrible atrocities and the evil that one human is doing to another that we need to stop."
Schumann says America should be putting more pressure on China to help end the conflict. China is Sudan’s biggest foreign trading partner. Beijing will host this year’s Olympic games and recently Hollywood director Stephen Spielberg stepped down as an artistic consultant to the Olympics.
"He said the ongoing genocide in Darfur and China’s complicity in it made him decide he would not be the artistic consultant," Schumann said. "I read that and I was just so pleased." The Des Moines for Darfur group meets the last Tuesday of every month to discuss the conflict and what Iowans can do to help end the genocide.