Slave-to-slave peace

"Slave-to-slave peace" Continued...

Issue: "Bush: Hail to the chief," Jan. 29, 2005

With UN officials meeting this month to hash out the size and scope of a peacekeeping force for Sudan, the tenuous nature of diplomatic peace makes one-on-one reconciliation more important than ever. Mr. Telar's group visited two camps on an 11-day trip to neighboring Chad, where 200,000 Darfuris have fled for refuge. With little but their clothes, tents, and monthly food rations, the needs are immense. The camps shelter mostly women, children, and the elderly, and malnutrition is rampant. "The problem is just mammoth," said Katie Rhoads, a Kansas City surgeon who traveled with the Sudanese Christians. "Even the UN workers say it's some of the worst refugee situations they've seen."

The most pressing need is winter clothing for the refugees as the desert winter deepens. The Sudanese Council of Churches hopes to raise money for a return to Chad with more formal humanitarian aid and Bibles. About $10,000 for the ministry has been provided by Christ Church in Kansas City, an Episcopalian congregation.

With the government and Janjaweed continuing raids even into refugee camps in Darfur, disrupting the work of the biggest humanitarian groups, the rebels have refused to stop fighting. Prospects for peace are dim, but the meeting between the Sudanese Christians and Darfuri refugees forged a rare moment of reconciliation. "Our last hope is from the South," they told Mr. Telar. These days it also takes a slave to heal a slave.

From prof to prophet of Sudan crisis

Eric Reeves is a one-man army with one mission: He would like to see the murderous government in Khartoum toppled.

The Smith College professor has made himself into a walking encyclopedia on Sudan, probably the most important single human resource for anyone in government or out who wants to understand the country's complexities coming off a 20-year civil war.

Mr. Reeves painstakingly collects reports of militia attacks, tots up civilian mortality figures, and chronicles diplomatic dithering with undiplomatic bluntness. He formulates the data into weekly (and sometimes more frequent) e-mails and a constantly updated website. Such focus is particularly useful now, as a North-South peace accord in Sudan makes it easier than ever to look away from the Islamic government's abuses.

Why would an East Coast Renaissance lit professor depart on such an odyssey? Six years ago, he says, he noticed how little international attention Sudan received despite some of the persistently worst cases of persecution, deprivation, and abuse in the world. A self-described "Russ Feingold Democrat," the 54-year-old said he had always donated to humanitarian efforts, particularly Doctors Without Borders. But Sudan needed more direct intervention, and few were publishing its plight.

On his own time, Mr. Reeves cultivated contacts with UN workers in the field, aid groups, and within the State Department. By synthesizing those reports into regular analysis, he soon became the armchair expert all the salaried experts looked to. "It's become the center of my life," he told WORLD. "Because I'm a one-man band, I do all the administrative work, all the research, all the writing, and I do all my travel arrangements," he said.

Eventually the hobby overtook the day job. Now into his fourth semester of unpaid leave from Smith, Mr. Reeves says he often puts in 60 hours a week researching and reporting, writing editorials, and lecturing on Sudan. The pace took a toll on his family life at first: He says the younger of his two now college-age daughters thought he was rarely around. "Some people would call him absolutely obsessed," said Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group. "He's a bulldog, and he doesn't let go."

But the persistence has paid dividends: Mr. Reeves was instrumental in encouraging advocacy groups to push Khartoum to declare a ceasefire with rebels in the South. When ethnic cleansing clearly was underway in the Darfur region, he mobilized facts and figures again, pushing the issue to the forefront at the UN and elsewhere. "He has a strictly pure humanitarian feeling about these people," Mr. Jacobs said. "These are the Jews of our time."

As Mr. Reeves explained in a recent report: "It is immoral for people to die invisibly, victims of deliberately targeted ethnic destruction, without any attempt made to give to these terrible deaths the exceedingly modest dignity of a statistical reckoning."


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