I just posted this on Sudan: The Passion of the Present, as a reflection on the year:
Intention, Darfur, Sudan
I’ve been listening to a CD of The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer.
The essence of his message is that there is a kind of divine intention
acting all the time in the world. We experience this intention as an
energy and as a sense of purpose. We can choose to harmonize with it
and create new things.
The CD (and the book it is an abridged from) is based on his
experiences, experiments, and study of living in this manner.
One of Dyer’s conclusions: You cannot make change by condemning something.
When you condemn something you partake of its energy–of its
sensibility–and you inadvertantly establish more of this negative
sensibility in the world.
The way to make change is to seek to understand the positive
possibilities trying to enter, establish themselves, and grow and
develop in the situation. You make change by being open to ways to
align your efforts with the intention expressing itself through
transformative tendrils sprouting on the landscape.
I think this is what many of the religious people in our movement
for Sudan and Darfur are saying, and seeking to help actualize.
As I mull this over, it occurs to me that several lines of intention are seeking to be realized:
Awareness and witness: visibility for all people
The victims of genocides often talk about their invisibility, and
the crippling sense that the world was not watching, that the world did
not care. Interviews with survivors of the Nazi Holocaust often dwell
on this theme, and one the counterpart healing power of sharing one’s
story, and having it be heard.
This website began with the goal of witness. Like Mary’s loving
witnessing of Jesus’ suffering in the movie The Passion of the Christ,
one of our founders felt deeply moved to witness the suffering in
Sudan, and to make connections with others involved in the tragedy and
the response and rescue. The Green Ribbon Campaign, the plastic
bracelets, the South African-made beaded bracelets (coming soon), the
candle-lite vigils, and STAND and other high-school and college groups
(spreading very very rapidly), provide a kind of deep ecology of
In Darfur and Sudan, witness also has proven to be fundamental.
When one talks to humanitarian workers, surprisingly, one often hears
that the victims in Darfur greatly value simply being respected, being
heard, being attended to, and knowing that people are working on their
behalf, even if that work is so far unsuccessful in stopping the
tragedy. In some sense this kind of listening, listening to the
witnessing, seems like a weak response in the face of overwhelming
evil. Yet it also seems at the root of healing, at the root of putting
oneself in position to take loving action.
Information and insight
The developmental link from witness to broader community
understanding has been forged by both the blog community and the
mainstream press. Nick Kristoff’s stories in the New York Times, the
stories told by
Jerry Fowler of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the story remembered in
Song for Sudan, these and many many other media-carried stories have
spiritual soil in which our movement is growing.
Our work on this site is sometimes seen by me as countering the
disinformation spread by the Sudanese government and its allies–and
condemning that government and its allies.
Perhaps better to see Passion of the Present as establishing clear,
truthful information and insight into the situation and lives in Darfur
and Sudan. If we look long-term at what we would hope for Sudan, it is
that information, dialogue, constructive relationships would thrive
among its citizens and those of the rest of the world. The hundreds of
bloggers now focusing on Sudan, and the thousands and thousands of
regular readers, as well as the dozens of major newspapers that have
taken up the cause, and their millions of readers, are surely improving
the information and insight that citizens of the world have about
Darfur and Sudan (and insight about the UN, the African Union, and the
role of China and other nations in the world economy and society, and
about many other topics). Central also is direct web-access to
specialized data gathering and analysis provided by human rights
organizations, economic and social policy think tanks, and individual
Intention seems to be manifesting a world of continually refreshed
global information and insight, with as much wisdom as possible laid
in. And this global knowledge, this global dialogue, is increasingly
free and open to all people of the world. Indeed, it is co-created by
the people of the world. It is not produced mainly by media companies,
but created principally by free people.
Personal relationships that will endure
More and more, our community seems to be manifesting a next level of
intention, that of connecting face-to-face as people with people in
Darfur and all of Sudan. Jay McGinley brings our attention to the
Catholic Workers who are now in Sudan. Phil Spector and others that we
know personally have now worked in Sudan as members of MSF. In about
two weeks Gloria White-Hammond and Liz Walker of My Sister’s Keeper
will be entering Darfur to establish connections with communities of
women who will be central to reweaving and strengthening the
post-conflict fabric of society in Darfur. Other friends are also
planning missions in January. Their names cannot be mentioned because
of the challenges of getting visas to go into Darfur. A human bridge
to Sudan is starting to be built. The suspension cables of this bridge
are personal relationships—reaching across and connecting solidly at
each end–on our end, solidly reflecting a philosophy of learning from
the Sudanese as well as offering help.
There are other layers of intention that seem to be manifesting in
the relationship with the people of Darfur and Sudan. Two of special
note are electronic communication and international law.
Open electronic communication in Sudan
Looking forward long-term, I believe that what is trying to manifest
in Sudan is a telecommunications capability that is ubiquitous across
the country, inexpensive and accessible to all, open and uncensored,
and connects citizens of Sudan with those of the rest of the world. On
top of this platform will be blogs, websites, lots of email, VOIP–and
on top of these applications will be lots of communication among
people. Lots is happening in this layer, and I hope to explore this
topic in more depth in a future post. Satellite voice service is
well-established throughout the country, and is being introduced to
previously isolated communities by the humanitarian agencies. In other
crisis zones, such as the Balkans, communications platforms are first
established by outside agencies, and then opened up to local
communities and activists. The private sector is starting to be more
active. In the north, a second cell phone carrier, to compete with the
government, is in the process of being licensed. The provisional
governnment in Southern Sudan, the NPLA/M, is
accepting bids for cell-phone and other communications licenses. It
seems that there are companies and investors willing to take on this
challenge. Our own Digital Green Ribbon Campaign is just starting (and
needs your help) but will hopefully contribute to the establishment of
local digital services and digital entrepreneurs–both social
entrepreneurs and for-profit/public service entrepreneurs.
Human Rights Law
Where the law is well-established and supports human rights, it is a
powerful force for good. On the international human rights law front,
some elements of the agenda for activist lawyers are becoming clearer
through our experience with Darfur and Sudan. It is blindingly obvious
that the UN Security Council is good for keeping nations from invading
each other, but is not good for keeping nations from killing their own
citizens. And the intention to remedy this lack is also clear, and
becoming clearer. To develop such capacity, advances in international
law will incorporate innovations in laws, due process, and enforcement.
Laws: One terrific idea (first articulated for me
by a member of the staff of Physicians for Human Rights) is to to
create a voluntary codicile to the UN Genocide Treaty clarifying its
meaning to include “attempted genocide,” clarifying due process and
enforcement, and perhaps extending the treaty to cover a broader range
of human rights abuses–and get nations to sign it.
Due Process: There are going to be interesting discussions at the UN Security Council about the use of the International Criminal Court
to bring charges against perpetrators in Sudan. The Bush
administration does not want to legitimize the court, yet needs it in
this case. An alternative, discussed by Christian activists two years
ago as part of the six point plan to deal with Iraq, would be to
establish a citizen-sponsored global court to try the criminals in
Sudan. This court would not have enforcement, but might have enough
legitimacy to bring other sorts of help following.
Enforcement: Ideas range from creating a permanent
UN peacekeeping force dedicated to protecting human rights, to a new
“council of democracies” to replace the UN and to advocate for
democracy and human and civil rights–making membership contingent on
the establishment of these values within nations.
So here is my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to keep witnessing,
keep working with all of you who want to help. I commit to try to use
the web help develop good information and insight across our community,
and try to bring attention, resources, and encouragement to those
working on the various Darfur and Sudan and world advances. Thanks so
very much for all of your help this year, for your love, your
encouragement, your criticism where necessary, and most of all your
incredible creativity in extending our community and our activities.
Thanks, and warm best wishes this and every night.
December 26, 2004 | Permalink