Senator Sam Brownback
A humanitarian crisis of historic proportions is unfolding today in a region of Sudan called Darfur.
The lives of millions of people are at risk as they are driven from their villages. I’m sure that many of you have seen the images of Darfur in the news recently: the burnt and empty villages; the faces of widows and frightened children, many of whom are orphaned and sick, all of whom are hungry. We know all this. In today’s world of 24-hour news, it’s hard to escape these kinds of facts, these kinds of truths.
Yet, even as the international community only recently resolved to avoid a repeat of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, it risks in Darfur yet another case of inertia: that of not acting until confronted by a catastrophe enormous in scale.
You stand here in the Hall of Witness to be reminded why each of us must remember the Shoah, not for ourselves as Americans alone, but for the sake of the image of God that is mankind. What is happening in Darfur today is the face of mankind that we cannot ignore.
While there may be no comparison between the Holocaust and what is happening today in Darfur, there is a connection. This kind of unimaginable slaughter what happens when human beings lose the capacity to live together despite our differences and to make space for one another despite our conflicting aspirations. In Darfur, it’s even more simple but no less evil: People are dying because of their ethnicity, because they are black. This is what happens when, in the words of Primo Levi, we forget that this is a man; that this is a woman; that this is a child, and when we no longer extend our sense of humanity to those who are not like us.
Those who fail to remember, said Santayana, are destined to repeat. Without memory, human history becomes a broken record endlessly replaying itself. That repetition is happening today in Darfur. And we, as Americans, protest that vision of mankind. We refuse to see persecution, ethnic conflict, violence, bloodshed, and injustice written into the human script as if we are helpless to prevent it and hopeless about doing anything to stop it.
God said to the very first human child, “Sin desires to have you, but you can master it.” But Cain, if you recall, wasn't listening. And still today, our “brother's blood cries to [us] from the ground.” That is what’s happening in Darfur today.
I ask each of you, as you remember what happened to the many victims of the Holocaust, as you walk through these halls and read about the personal histories of those who perished, that you give thought not just to the past alone but to all those who today suffer, that you feel their plight, their affliction. Try to know their terror as if it were your own.
Above all, do something. Whether you send a contribution or roll up your sleeves to volunteer with some group, or even adopt into your community an orphaned child—just do something, anything. That, after all, is the most eloquent testimony, if testimony is needed, that remembering the Holocaust has taught us not to hide the pain, but to cherish life and to fight for it with compassion and courage.
We have just left behind the bloodiest century since man first walked on earth. We are at a fateful crossroads in the human journey. The sheer scale of our technological achievements has given us the power to control our environment. In our hands, we hold the power to either build or destroy; we can heal or we can murder. Never before have we held such power. How we use it depends not only on governments, strategic alliances, international forces, or global assemblies: It depends ultimately on the human heart. It depends on each one of us—what we cherish, what we remember, the reach of our compassion, the depth of our courage. While we call on the international community to act before it is too late in Darfur, it is incumbent on each one of us to act—as well as to pray and to remember.
Therefore, today, I call upon each of you to dedicate this day as a day of reflection and action, reflection on the suffering in Darfur and other places around the world, and action in the name of God whose children we are. That, after all, is the foundation upon which this Memorial was built, that out of death should come life, and out of tragedy a gateway of hope.
God bless you and God bless this country.