Members of Congress and representatives of religious, and private relief organizations gathered at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in support of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, to focus attention on the situation in that region of Sudan.
Representatives of faith-based as well as private aid organizations sat amid large poster photographs of victims of what Congress and the Bush administration have declared to be genocide in Darfur.
Groups as diverse as the American Jewish Committee, the NAACP, a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the United States, and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, joined with aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and members of Congress.
Robert Wexler, a Democratic lawmaker from the state of Florida, says: "The international community has been unconscionably negligent as nearly 400,000 men, women and children have been killed in the Darfur region of Sudan. Today we have gathered to let the world know that this silence is unacceptable and we raise our voices in unison calling on the Sudanese government to bring these atrocities to an end."
Rabbi David Saperstein, of the Religious Action Committee for Reform Judaism, referred to continuing deaths in Darfur, from violence, hunger, or disease.
"On each death certificate let the cause of death be stated honestly. That they are too poor, too powerless, too far away, that the world is still indifferent, he says.
Congressman Donald Payne is a New Jersey Democrat who has visited Darfur with other members of the House.
"I have said many times that this illegitimate government led by Omar Bashir has committed unimaginable atrocities against its own people, and continues to do so, both directly and indirectly, through the Janjaweed (Arab militias). Our government, though it has committed a lot of funds for humanitarian assistance, I feel is too lax in dealing with the government of Sudan," he says.
The Bush administration has requested, and Congress has approved, hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian and other assistance for Darfur.
The United States remains the largest contributor of relief aid to Sudan, and has provided logistical support for African Union troops in Darfur and took the lead in efforts to resolve Sudans long-running North-South civil war.
President Bush joined in a statement by the G-8 nations earlier this month expressing concern about continuing reports of gross human rights violations, and calling on the Sudan government to disarm Arab militias blamed for most of the killing of civilians.
Both the House and Senate approved resolutions last month calling for the National Weekend for Prayer, during which it is hoped Americans will try to learn more about the situation in Darfur, in addition to offering their prayers for the people there.