The children of the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan are speaking out through artwork at an exhibition unveiled Monday in Washington. Organizers say they hope the children's artwork will inspire others to help work for peace in Darfur and the rest of the world.
When children are given paper and crayons, it is not common for them to draw heartbreaking images of rape and violence. But that's what children living in seven refugee camps along Darfur's border with Chad did.
The 27 drawings that were collected and put on display by the Jewish college organization Hillel show violence as these children see it. Organizer Michelle Lackie says seeing the Darfur conflict through children's eyes makes the human catastrophe more real and personal.
"I think through children, you can't ignore it. You can't ignore when something happens. You can't say it's just politics or that people are just experiencing different things," said Ms. Lackie. "Kids are innocent, they don't have a reason to say something not the way it is. And so I think you have to relate to it."
Ms. Lackie says Hillel has taken on many causes, from Darfur to Rwanda, because Jewish people can relate to the struggle. "It's a Jewish value to be helping other people and to be repairing the world or as we say in Hebrew, tikkun olam, and I think this is one of those ways of doing that," she said. "Jews have gone through a genocide ourselves and we say 'never forget'; and the second half of 'never forget' is 'do something about it.' You can't let it happen again."
The organization invited the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks to the exhibit, where he encouraged Jews to see the despair of the children whose pictures were displayed. The rabbi says while Jewish faith encourages helping most with issues closest to home, he says Jews also have been called to bring peace to places far away. He urges more people to help with Darfur.
"It is such a scandal that this prolonged genocide is taking place without protest from the rest of the world," said Rabbi Sacks. "We really must join forces and join voices."
The United Nations says tens of thousands of people died and nearly three million people have been displaced by the violence.