Tens of Thousands Rally in Central Park for “Global Day for Darfur”

New York, NY – Tens of thousands of individuals of many races, religions, and national backgrounds joined faith leaders, entertainers, and diplomats in New York’s Central Park today to call for the immediate deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to protect the innocent victims in Darfur, Sudan. The rally was the centerpiece of the Global Day for Darfur (www.dayfordarfur.org) with additional events in over 30 nations on 6 continents. Global Day events took place in London, Cairo, Paris, Kigali, Phnom Penh, Melbourne, Seoul, Toronto, and elsewhere.

Hundreds of thousands of participants worldwide donned blue hats in calling for the immediate deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force to Darfur. U.N. peacekeepers in combat zones wear blue helmets or berets.  The U.N. Security Council authorized a peacekeeping force of 22,600 troops and personnel for Darfur on August 31, but has yet to set a firm timeline for deployment.

“Today I stand in solidarity not just with the people in this crowd in Central Park, not just with the people of Darfur in whose name we gather, but with millions of people all over the world who are taking part in a Global Day for Darfur,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “This is a moment that will be remembered as a tipping point, when the world finally put its foot down as one and declared, ‘Not on our watch!’”

Secretary Albright was joined by additional speakers and entertainers such as Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and multi-platinum, award winning music duo Big & Rich. Additional performers included musical acts O.A.R. and Citizen Cope. “Save Darfur Now: Voices to End Genocide” was sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org), a coalition of 176 faith-based, human rights, and civil-society organizations with a common goal of ending the Darfur genocide.

Currently, an ill-equipped, undermanned and underfunded African Union force provides very limited security to Darfuri civilians and international humanitarian workers, but it has been threatened with expulsion by the Sudanese government on October 1.  The Sudanese government has also refused to allow the UN peacekeeping force to deploy in its place.

“The United Nations understands the severity of this tragedy and has passed a resolution that will begin to provide a solution,” said David Rubenstein of the Save Darfur Coalition. “Unfortunately, for the people of Darfur, a resolution does not provide protection, soldiers do. President Bush must directly engage his fellow heads of state to ensure that we all live up to our responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. He must find a way to deploy a strong UN peacekeeping force to Darfur before another woman is raped, another child burned alive, or another man killed.”

An estimated 400,000 men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, a western region of Sudan, since the Sudanese government unleashed its Janjaweed militia in February 2003. The government-sponsored genocide has driven 2.5 million civilians from their homes and left more than 3 million individuals reliant on international humanitarian aid. Aid organizations have reported that nearly 40% of those in need of aid are not receiving it due to security concerns resulting from a recent increase in attacks.

“Individuals across the world have expressed unified support for my people,” said Omer Ismail of Darfur Peace and Development, one of twelve Darfuri organizations represented on stage during the rally. “Now the world’s leaders must heed their cries by stopping the slaughter. Every day they delay is a matter of life or death.”

A full list of speakers and entertainers is available at www.savedarfur.org.

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