Daily photo by John Godbey|
Phillip Washington reports on water needs in the Sudan during Sunday morning church service at King's Memorial United Methodist Church. Waiting their turn to speak, from left, are Jade Moore, Belaine Allen, Wesley Allen, Toraineya Nicholas and Kelsey Washington. Seated at far left is their teacher, Niger Woodruff.
'It could have
Darfur refugee needs capture
attention of King's Memorial youths
By Melanie B. Smith
email@example.com · 340-2468
When they could have been sleeping in or doing almost anything else, what drew youths from King's Memorial United Methodist Church on a summer Saturday morning to the public library?
They went to research a place on the other side of the world where people are suffering and dying.
Toraineya Nicholas, 15, said she felt it was important to learn about young people who need help in Darfur, Sudan.
After all, "it could have been us," she said.
Church youth leader Niger Woodruff, 28, brought up the idea to the group of about 14 teens. He said he wanted the students to do their own learning before making a presentation to the church about Sudan.
The youths said they learned some shocking facts: Thousands have been murdered in the conflict between militia and rebel forces. Girls as young as 8 have been raped. Refugees who fled the violence don't have enough food or water and often have to use the same water source for washing and drinking.
Woodruff said he wanted to bridge the gap between life in Sudan and life in Decatur for youths.
"Our main goal is to broaden their awareness of the consequences of things going on in the world," he said.
Woodruff said he wanted youths to also learn how they and others can bring relief and comfort.
Belaine Allen, 13, said she didn't think she would make it, if she were a Darfur refugee.
"I wouldn't want me or any of my family members to live like that," she said.
Resources that the youths used show that the Darfur tragedy isn't being ignored. One new Web site they researched, www.eyeson
darfur.com, posts high-resolution satellite images of Darfur villages at risk. The site created by Amnesty International asks for watchers to make sure the places remain safe.
Religious groups, government leaders, humanitarian organizations and even celebrities have called attention to the deaths and displacements in the region.
Save Darfur Coalition is composed of 180 faith based, humanitarian and advocacy organizations. Several Alabama grassroots groups, including Huntsville Against Genocide, are registered at www.savedarfur.org.
At least 400,000 people have died and more than 2 million driven from their homes during years of violence and political instability, according to United Methodist News Service.
This week at a meeting in Paris on Darfur, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the world must be ready to impose sanctions on Sudan if it reneges on a pledge to let in more peacekeepers. The government of Sudan finally agreed to the larger force aimed at stopping four years of killing in Darfur, according to AP.
Alabama Republican congressman Robert Aderholt of Haleyville visited Sudan in December, meeting with the country's president. Aderholt said that his concern about the country's violence, termed genocide by the United States, grew out of his "pro-life" beliefs.
Greatest need? Water
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, working with a church in Tipp City, Ohio, is focusing on a project to reestablish water supplies and improve sanitation. Project leaders said that water is the most critical health need in Darfur. The Ohio church, Ginghamsburg UMC, has raised $1.8 million for UMCOR ministry in Sudan.
Money is needed to re-drill wells, provide latrines and train community members to maintain the systems, according to UMCOR. The relief group is also reopening schools.
The Rev. Wylheme Ragland, pastor of King's Memorial, said that the congregation participates locally in relieving needs, "but there's a world beyond us."
He said one member asked, "What have you done to my daughter? She's in the library on a Saturday."
The youths made their presentation Sunday during the morning worship service. King's Memorial is collecting offerings for relief and praying for the region, leaders said.
Learn more about relief work in Darfur, Sudan, at:
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