Painted refugee tents to be set up on National Mall

WASHINGTON, DC –– During the weekend of Nov. 7-9, more than 300 colorfully painted refugee tents will be erected on the National Mall here to call attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

The “Gathering of the Tents,” the culminating event of the year-long Tents of Hope campaign, includes speakers, panel discussions, workshops, music and displays. The campaign, which is urging the new president to put ending the Darfur genocide at the top of his agenda in 2009, includes 360 cities in 48 states.

Activists will present a ‘citizens’ arrest warrant’ for Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

A vigil is scheduled at the Sudanese Embassy on Friday, Nov. 7, where activists will present a “citizens’ arrest warrant” for Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

Schoolchildren from around the country will be painting 10 tents on Saturday, Nov. 8, and a rally is planned for Sunday, Nov. 9.

Following the weekend of events, the tents will be loaded into a shipping container and sent to Darfur for use by internally displaced persons.

Among speakers will be Al-Ghali Yahya Shegifat, president of the Assn. of Darfur Journalists. In May 2008, he was arrested and brutally tortured for several months by the Sudanese government. An international campaign led by Amnesty USA and International PEN helped to secure his release. Shegifat, who is seeking political asylum in the United States, will speak at several events during the weekend.

The tents are symbols of suffering and hope.

“The tents are symbols of suffering and hope,” said Tim Nonn, national coordinator of Tents of Hope. “Some of the tents show scenes of death and destruction painted by Darfuri children in refugee camps. They are side by side with beautiful images painted by American schoolchildren who have raised thousands of dollars for humanitarian relief.”

Interfaith weekend of prayer and action for Sudan

The “Interfaith Weekend of Prayer & Action for Sudan” will be held on the same weekend of Nov. 7-9. Hundreds of cities will hold interfaith services to protest the genocide in Darfur. Local groups will take part in Save Darfur Coalition’s “Add Your Voice” postcard campaign, which aims to deliver one million postcards to the new president.

“The weekend marks the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht,” said Rabbi Or Rose, “a key moment in the destruction of European Jewry during the Holocaust. Tragically, the world has not yet internalized the piercing cry of ‘Never Again’ that emanated from Auschwitz.”

Refugee camp we are creating in the heart of the nation’s capital is a vivid symbol of the humanity of these upstanding communities.

Rose said the Tents of Hope project is a bold expression of the conscience of grassroots activists from across the country who refuse to be bystanders to genocide. “The refugee camp we are creating in the heart of the nation’s capital is a vivid symbol of the humanity of these upstanding communities,” he said.

Directors of the General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church painted a tent that will be among those on display on the mall.

The tragedy in Darfur

The United Nations reports that 2.7 million internally displaced persons in Darfur and 250,000 refugees in Chad are dependent on international relief. The ongoing genocide, which is entering its seventh year, has claimed more than 300,000 civilian lives.

Prof. Eric Reeves, a leading expert on Sudan, has accused the Sudanese government of deliberately hampering humanitarian relief operations as part of the final phase of the genocide. “Khartoum is of course well aware of the disruptive and costly effects of these and other new restrictions on humanitarian vehicles and travel,” he said. “Indeed, disruption is precisely the point.”

More than 5 million Darfuris are dependent on international relief operations. But the World Food Program and other relief organizations have suspended operations in parts of Darfur due to attacks on relief convoys and camps. Some relief groups have been forced to entirely withdraw from the country since the government stepped up harassment of relief workers several months ago.

Tents of Hope

Tents of Hope is a one-year campaign that encourages a community-based response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan through education, advocacy and fundraising for humanitarian aid.

Campaign partners include the United Church of Christ, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Save Darfur Coalition, STAND, United Methodist Church General Boards of Global Ministries and Church & Society, Genocide Intervention Network, Genocide Watch, Investors Against Genocide, Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Darfur Peace and Development Organization, Amnesty USA, Church World Service, American Jewish World Service, Physicians for Human Rights, Lutheran World Relief, Stop Genocide Now, Enough and the National Council of Churches of Christ.

For more information, contact Tim Nonn, (707) 799-1056.

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