November 15, 2000
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM’S COMMITTEE ON CONSCIENCE TAKES ACTION TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS OF SUDAN GENOCIDE THREAT
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience continues to raise public awareness about the threat of genocide in Sudan by opening a special display with a public panel discussion about events taking place in Africa’s largest country.
This is the first time that the Museum has presented a display about an ongoing situation outside of Europe.
Earlier, the Committee issued a genocide warning based on conclusions that actions and policies of the Sudanese military government are primarily responsible for the deaths of around two million people. In addition, another four to five million people have been driven from their homes, mass starvation is used as a weapon of destruction, slavery is tolerated, churches and mosques are destroyed, hospitals, clinics and other civilian and humanitarian targets are routinely bombed, and there is widespread discrimination and persecution on account of race, ethnicity and religion. The principal victims include the Dinka and Nuer peoples in the southern part of the country and the Nuba in central Sudan.
“Our concern stems from the whole web of atrocities and abuses attributable to the government of Sudan,” says the Chair of the Committee on Conscience, Mr. Jerome J. Shestack. “Individually, each horror is a disaster for its victims. Together, they threaten the existence of entire groups. The moral imperative to respond is overwhelming.”
As bad as it is now, the situation may get worse.
Significant deposits of oil have been discovered under lands now occupied by peoples such as the Dinka and Nuer in southern Sudan. The government’s desire to secure those lands has fueled a vicious scorched earth campaign, laying waste to a broad swath of territory. As well, the hard currency generated by new oil exports is allowing the government to buy more weapons to intensify ethnic cleansing of the oil lands.
“For too long, the devastation in Sudan has been largely invisible to the world, and remote from the concerns of much of the American public,” Mr. Shestack says. “We must make it more visible and less remote.”
“We cannot do otherwise,” says the Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Rabbi Irving Greenberg. “Remembrance of the Holocaust has instilled in us a profound appreciation for the cost of silence.”
In order to increase that visibility, the Committee on Conscience has issued a genocide warning, opened a special display in the Museum that focuses on the situation in Sudan, organized a briefing session to explain developments to journalists, is holding a public panel discussion about the issues at seven o’clock tonight and will continue a series of public programs and actions.
Participants in the briefing and public panel discussions will be Mr. Jerome J. Shestack, Chair, Committee on Conscience; Dr. William O. Lowrey; Ms. Jemera Rone, Counsel, Human Rights Watch; and Mr. Lomole Simeon Mwonga, Chancellor, Episcopalian Diocese of Khartoum. Mr. Jeffrey Drumtra, Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees, will participate in the media briefing, while the organization’s Executive Director, Mr. Roger Winter, will participate in the public panel discussion.
The 42-member Committee on Conscience was established five years ago by the United States Holocaust Memorial Council to confront and work to halt acts of contemporary genocide and related crimes against humanity. It was an original recommendation of the 1979 President’s Commission on the Holocaust led by Elie Wiesel, which envisioned a “living memorial” to Holocaust victims that would play a role in preventing the recurrence of mass murder.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has hosted more than 15 million visitors since it opened in 1993, is the national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people who were murdered. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.