BlogHers Act: We Need to Be A Witness for Darfur

BlogHer Original Post

[img_assist|fid=4170|thumb=1|alt=Not On Our Watch|caption=Book Cover from Hyperion's site]

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then the came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak up.
-Pastor Martin Niemoller.

You may have read yesterday that BlogHer has launched a new, year-long initiative, BlogHers Act, to use the power of its 11,000+ members for positive change, and asked its members to answer the questions 1.What is the global issue BlogHer's members should focus on this year?, and 2. If you could tell the presidential candidates what is most important to you, what are the top four hot button issues you would ask them to address?

There are so many issues that are important to me, and to our world, but I guess because I am just finishing up reading Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, that Editor Dana Tuszke reviewed in May, by Don Cheadle and John Pendergast, that the situation in Darfur is on my mind.

I am as worried as the next person about the environmental issues that will affect all of us, but I am also heartened that the mainstream media is beginning to pick up more stories about global warming, alternative fuel, green building, etc.

On the other hand, even though in Darfur 400,000 people have died, thousands of women have been raped, and more than two million people have been forced to live in refugee camps, according to BeAWitness.org, "During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur."

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As bloggers, one of the most powerful tools we have is to point our readers' attention towards the issues we care about. How many of us have cried through a movie about the Holocaust and thought, how did that happen? And yet, it is happening right now.

The problem with getting people rallied around the issue of genocide is, it's depressing, it's heavy, it's tiring, but even though it is all of those things, it is changeable. That is what I have found so heartening about Not on Our Watch. It is full of amazing success stories and suggested actions like:

1. Raise Awareness
2. Hold a Fundraising Event
3. Write a Letter to An Elected Official
4. Call for Divestment
5. Join an Organization
6. Lobby the Government

I feel like BlogHers could really make an impact on this issue just by taking, and encouraging their readers to take, even 1 of the above 6 steps. For BlogHers who feel like we should focus on a "women's issue", here is a story from Not On Our Watch author John Pendergast:

Over the last three years, on a number of trips to the region, I have spoken with countless women who recounted with surprising candor how while collecting firewood for the refugee camps, they were beaten by Janjaweed, threatened with knives, cut, and raped. The women went to the police to report the rapes, but nothing happened. . . .The government has even hidden Janjaweed fighters within the police, creating a sickening scenario of the attackers "guarding" their victims. These women had no other option but to go out again to these unsafe areas on a daily basis in search of firewood.

Imagine if you couldn't go to the store to get food for your family. If you had to choose between feeding your family and rape. That is a choice no woman should have to make.

Perhaps what is going on in Darfur doesn't seem like enough of a "global" issue that all women can mobilize around, but as the Pastor Martin Niemoller quote above captures, you never know when the "other" will become you.

Full disclosure: I requested a review copy of Not on Our Watch from Hyperion.

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Britt Bravo, also blogs at Have Fun * Do Good, NetSquared and World Changing San Francisco.

Follow BlogHer on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/BlogHer-28615

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