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Interfaith Group Urges More Attention to Darfur Genocide


An interfaith group led by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel is urging the United Nations to do more to highlight the unfolding human tragedy in Sudan's Darfur region.

A coalition of Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives went to see U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Wednesday to ask for a daily accounting of the death toll in Darfur.

One member of the group, Hannah Rosenthal of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, said the world body is in a unique position to highlight conditions in Darfur, where many experts and the U.S. government say genocide is unfolding.

"There are people on the ground monitoring the situation. We have asked if it's possible to get daily counts," said Mr. Rosenthal. "One way to educate the public and demand an end to silence is to frame the issue, not one group against another, not whether it fits diplomatic definition, but how many people are being killed, starved, raped, and we start framing the issue that way."

An estimated 70,000 people have died and more than 1.5 million others driven from their homes since war broke out in the western Sudan region last year. U.N. official say the death toll is climbing at a rate of up to 10,000 a month.

Much of the killing is believed to be the work of pro-government militias known as Janjaweed, who are terrorizing black African villagers in Darfur.

A Muslim cleric among the interfaith delegation, Talib Abdur Rashid of the Majlis Ash-Shura of New York says American Muslims want to be counted among those who are outraged at the killings.

"This is a Muslim country, but this is a Muslim country in Africa, as opposed to a Muslim country in the Middle East, and the humanitarian concerns that we all have in common, those same humanitarian concerns exist throughout not only the Muslim world, but they exist very heavily right here in the United States among the seven or eight million Muslims who are citizens here," he said.

The leader of the interfaith delegation, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, told reporters it is important to register the outrage felt by people of all religions at the unfolding genocide in Darfur.

In a similar vein, The U.N. Security Council will travel to Africa next month for two-days of meetings on Sudan. It will be only the fourth time since 1952 that the Council has met outside U.N. headquarters. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Danforth said he is hopeful the meetings would help in ending Sudan's civil war.