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Protesters in NY Decry Violence in Sudan's Darfur Region - 2004-07-20

In New York, a coalition of African American and Jewish clergy led a demonstration in front of Sudan's U.N. Mission Tuesday to raise public awareness about the violent campaign Arab militias are waging against mostly black Sudanese. The group is calling on the United Nations to take swift action.

The members of the group say the recent news of killings, torture and rape by Sudanese militia, against mostly blacks in the Darfur region, has stunned them and they want to spur public involvement in protest until Sudan takes action to stop the militia or the international community takes action against Sudan.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld says that as a Jew he cannot stand by silently. "Silence is like acceptance. We cannot accept the horrific fate that is going to the people in the Sudan. People are dying. People are being raped. Babies are being mutilated. And we are here to say to the world, we are watching. The world is watching," he said.

Rabbi Herzfeld says the groups wants to pressure the United Nations to impose sanctions on Sudan and enforce a no-fly zone. The U.N. Securtiy Council has already discussed the possibility of imposing sanctions on Sudan.

The protest group grew out of the friendship between Baptist minister Roger Hambrick and Rabbi Avi Weiss and their local congregations in the Bronx. Reverend Hambrick says African Americans and Jews understand the need to work against hatred and racism.

"It must stop. It has to stop now. It does not make any sense. We need people to come stand with us on these issues and not be afraid," he said.

The clergymen say they intend to reach out to other religious leaders in New York to join in larger future protests. And City Councilman Robert Jackson, who attended the rally, says the the New York City Council may consider a resolution against Sudan.