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Hoeffel Statement On Humanitarian Crisis In Sudan

Location: Washington, DC

Hoeffel Statement On Humanitarian Crisis In Sudan

PHILADELPHIA , PA - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rep. Joe Hoeffel today issued the following statement regarding his protest yesterday at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. :

"Yesterday, my wife Francesca and I decided to engage in a small act of conscience by agreeing to be arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington . You might think that's an unusual thing for a Member of Congress to do. In fact, I was not the first Member of Congress to carry out this traditional form of civil disobedience in order to bring greater attention to the horrible ethnic violence and avoidable humanitarian catastrophe now taking place in that east African nation. I certainly hope I will not be the last.

"Why now? The answer is simple. Refugee children are dying of disease and malnutrition. Women are being raped. Men are being murdered. The clock is ticking and every day that passes means the loss of more human life. Americans of all faiths do not want to stand by and simply let this kind of ethnic warfare and humanitarian crisis happen again. I came to the conclusion that simply passing resolutions and sending letters would not do enough to bring about the kind of quick action needed to save lives.

"Many people may still not be aware that the situation in Sudan is appalling and deteriorating fast. Sudan is a brutally poor country on the edge of the Arab Muslim world in North Africa and the Middle East . As a result, it has a delicate ethnic and religious divide - a combustible mix of Arabs and blacks, Muslims and Coptic Christians. Racial and cultural tensions there have spilled over into violence before. Sudan has long been a breeding ground for terrorism against America , as well as famine and disease among its own people.

"In a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing reminiscent of Rwanda a decade ago, the Sudanese government has supported and encouraged Arab militias in the slaughter of black Africans in the Darfur region of the country - killing and raping thousands of innocent black men, women, and children. Already more than 30,000 people have been slaughtered and more than a million others displaced. Entire villages are being destroyed and families are being torn apart. Sudan is witness to brutal crimes against humanity - hateful genocide, plain and simple.

"The longer the international community waits to react, the more terrible the human cost will be. The refugee situation is getting worse, and with it the growing threat of malnutrition and disease. Conservative estimates are that 350,000 Sudanese could die as a result of this crisis. We cannot sit by and watch another Rwanda or Bosnia occur without standing up for our values as Americans. In fact, this is a test of values for the entire global community. Will we act to put an end to the ethnic and religious persecution? Will we stand up to protect the innocent?

"This is not a partisan issue. The Bush administration is calling for the United Nations to act, sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to Sudan last month. Representative Donald Payne of New Jersey has introduced a congressional resolution which I support declaring that the situation in Sudan is, in fact, genocide and calling for the UN to act.

"I know some may question the political wisdom of engaging in such public act of civil disobedience, especially in an election year. But I believe that this is the kind of issue that must go beyond partisan politics and political calculation. Given the horrible facts on the ground and the importance of quick, life-saving action, formal congressional resolutions and letters to our own Secretary of State aren't up to the task at hand because of their limited impact and long procedural timeframe.

"There is no time to waste while the violence is continuing, and hundreds of thousands of people are in danger of dying from disease and starvation. All of us as Americans and human beings have a moral responsibility to act in whatever way we can when innocent people are being murdered and terrorized because of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. There's no economic benefit in Sudan for us; no military advantage to be gained; just millions of innocent people who urgently need our help.

"I call on the United Nations Security Council to move decisively in Sudan with peacekeeping forces - if necessary - to protect innocent people and provide health care and food to those who will die without help. This is a moment when America can provide the world with moral leadership that's rooted in our highest ideals. I only hope that our own small effort, together with that of many others, will help shine a bright light on this challenge and convince the UN to take fast action to stop this genocide in Africa ."

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