About 100 graves of Sudanese refugees line the cemetery of the Farchana refugee camp in northeastern Chad. New bodies are added every day, with most of the deceased being young children or the elderly who have succumbed to the harsh conditions of the African desert. The young adults buried there are women. Missing are the young men. The bodies of those who were killed are buried or left to rot throughout the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan, where government-backed Arab militias have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the black Africans who inhabit the region. This cemetery is the symbol of our suffering, said Abdullah Abdulaye, a refugee.
In northeastern Chad, temperatures reach 130º F. Dirt roads washed away by unrelenting rains prevent food and other supplies from reaching the refugees. In the Bredjing refugee camp near Farchana, a team of about a dozen men worked to dig out a truck stuck in sand on Aug. 29. The truck was delivering several tons of sorghum to the camp when its wheels sank into the sand, dampened by days of heavy rains. In Farchana and Bredjing, the refugees say they do not receive enough food and that their children suffer from chronic diarrhea and other maladies. Their tents are no more than 8-feet-by-10-feet, with new arrivalsfamilies as large as 11placed in 4-foot-by-6-foot tents. But U.N. officials describe conditions in Farchana as good.
An official of Doctors Without Borders said 30 percent of the 1,200 patients the agency sees each week in Bredjing suffer from chronic diarrhea. The official said those numbers were alarming and could indicate a potential for more serious maladies, such as dysentery or cholera. I don’t believe we give them enough food, said Couldjim Madibe, camp director of Farchana and an employee of the local Caritas office, known by its French acronym, Secadev. We want to give them more food, but we can’t. We have to work within the [U.N.] guidelines, he said. Those guidelines include per-person-per-day servings of 425 grams of cereal, usually sorghum; 50 grams of beans; 25 grams of a corn-soy mix; 25 grams of oil; 15 grams of sugar; and 5 grams of salt.
There are more than 12,000 refugees in Farchana. In Bredjing, the numbers have swelled to more than 40,000, and more refugees arrive every day. There are about 200,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad and one million more displaced within Sudan. The United Nations estimates that about 30,000 to 50,000 people have been killed since early 2003. The World Health Organization said on Aug. 31 that in Darfur hepatitis cases have increased because of insufficient clean water and poor sanitary conditions, with more than 2,400 cases and more than 40 deaths reported since late May. In Chad, about 30 deaths have been linked to hepatitis, the U.N. agency reported.
Sudan is under intense international pressure to control the Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed. A U.N. deadline to improve the situation in Darfur expired on Aug. 30, leaving Sudan facing international sanctions. The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is the world’s worst.
Farchana was the first refugee camp for Sudanese in Chad. Now 11 camps are under the direction of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and other unofficial camps have been established along the Chad-Sudan border.
Abdulaye said he arrived at Farchana in late May. He fled his village of Guerendi in February during a late-night ambush by the Janjaweed and government forces. He drew lines in the sand to describe how Sudanese soldiers in vehicles surrounded his village while the Janjaweed on camels attacked. Government aircraft shot at fleeing villagers. If you succeed in escaping, the planes follow and shoot at you, he said. His story is similar to those other refugees and displaced people have been telling humanitarian aid workers for months. Sometimes the government aircraft dropped bombs on villages, followed by a militia raid. Others say the Janjaweed arrived first, with government aircraft finishing the job.
Haoua Ahmat was sleeping when the Janjaweed attacked her village in December. She awakened when a bullet ripped through her right leg. She said a militia member began firing indiscriminately through a window of her home. It was dark; he didn’t know what he was shooting at. When the Janjaweed arrive, they shoot at anything that moves, she said. Eventually she crawled out of the house, and her elderly father dragged her to safety. The two wandered across the desert for 20 days before reaching the Chad border. Ahmat was taken to a U.N. clinic in Adre, Chad; her right leg was amputated below the knee.
Many of the refugees interviewed at Farchana said they wanted to return home, but they realized it might be a long time before peace is restored to Darfur. Reining in the Janjaweed is not enough, they said; those who committed crimes against refugees must be punished, and displaced Sudanese should be repaid for possessions lost. Where are our animals? Where are our possessions? Abdulaye asked. How do we forget what we witnessed? People killed by planes, women and children shot. How do we forgive such a thing? It is clear in my mind, I want revenge, he said. Every day we are dying as a people, Abdu Gammar said on Aug. 28 as he pointed to the grave of a young mother buried earlier that morning in Farchana.Romero Hearing Seen as Curbing Impunity
A U.S. district court judge in Fresno, Calif., ruled that álvaro Saravía, a retired Salvadoran air force captain who had been living in Modesto, Calif., hired and paid the murderer of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Judge Oliver W. Wanger called the archbishop’s murder a crime against humanity. In the civil suit, Saravía, whose current whereabouts are unknown, was ordered to pay $10 million in damages to an unnamed relative of the archbishop. The lead attorney for the relative called the hearing part of a worldwide effort to end the impunity of human rights abusers. The trial was less about getting money, he said, and more about warning foreign human rights abusers that the United States is no safe haven for them.Archbishop Burke Promises Letter on Voting
Reacting to recent media reports that he has generated confusion and frustration, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis announced that his pastoral letter on voting will be published Oct. 1. In radio and newspaper interviews in June, Archbishop Burke said, It’s objectively wrong to vote for a pro-choice politician and that Catholic voters who did so would need to confess that sin. But in an interview published on Sept. 2 in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the archbishop said that he wanted to articulate the matter as fully as possible because of confusion about his earlier statements.
Describing a distinction outlined in June by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Burke said a Catholic who opposes abortion could vote for a candidate who supports keeping abortion legal for what are called proportionate reasons.
In a memorandum to the U.S. bishops in mid-June, Cardinal Ratzinger said, A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Archbishop Burke said in the Sept. 2 Post-Dispatch interview that if the reasons are really proportionate, and the person remains clear about his or her opposition to abortion, a Catholic could vote for a politician who supported abortion. The sticking point is thisand this is the hard part, the archbishop added: What is a proportionate reason to justify favoring the taking of an innocent, defenseless human life? And I just leave that to you as a question. That’s the question that has to be answered in your conscience. What is the proportionate reason?News Briefs
A third federal judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, has ruled the law prohibiting the procedure known as partial-birth abortion is unconstitutional. The cases are expected to be appealed eventually to the Supreme Court.
Pope John Paul II said the takeover of the Russian school in the North Ossetia province town of Beslan was a vile and heartless act of aggression against defenseless children and families.
The presidents of two Catholic health care organizations and the general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference urged members of Congress to protect a conscience clause in a pending appropriations bill. A letter to members of the House on Sept. 3 urged their support for a section of the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services that allows health care providers to decline to provide abortions without risking the loss of federal funding.
The man who sponsored Oregon’s statute allowing sex-abuse lawsuits to be pursued many years after the crimes says the law was distorted by the courts before it was used in cases against the Archdiocese of Portland. Kevin Mannix, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said the legislation he carried to unanimous approval in 1991 was meant as a tool to help victims get justice from their abusers after years of suppressing horrible memories. He had no intention of opening employers or institutions to liability, he said.