Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Covering Genocide

Living across the world geographically from Sudan feels even farther away when it comes to culture, language and living conditions. Although some aspects of human nature aren’t changed when borders and seas are crossed. This is something Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, addressed in his lecture Monday night.
“I think at the end of the day we have a human compus within us and it’s moved in part my human suffering and also by evil,” he said to a packed Columbia 150 in his keynote address titled, “Covering the first genocide of the 21st century: Reporting from Darfur.” Evil isn’t something I see in my life very often, but there is no doubt the images Kristof showed and the stories he told came from someplace evil.
“You see evil when a guy has his eyes gouged out. That is evil,” he said. Where does the line between the responsibility of a journalist and the compassion of a human being exist? Covering these events from Darfur would surely be a challenge for any journalist, because in the end we are all human beings and just as Kristof said; we are moved by human suffering and evil.
During his lecture, Kristof walked us through the oasis he reported from, located on the border of Sudan and Chad. He described it as a place with a couple of wells, some trees and 30,000 people who fled Darfur and were now living under the trees. At the first tree he found a man whose face and neck were badly scarred.
“He’d been shot in the neck and jaw and left for dead in a pile of bodies with his parents,” Kristof said. This man’s brother escaped the mass killing and later returned to burry the bodies when he discovered his brother was still alive. He carried his brother on his back for 49 days, until they arrived at the border.
Under the next tree a girl and her baby brother rested. Their parents and older siblings were killed and she was trying to keep her brother alive. She looked younger than eight years old. Then, under the third tree there was a woman who was gang raped for days and then had her legs mutilated, to permanently remind her and others of the horrific experience.
“That was really the moment the brutalities hit me and the scale of them,” Kristof said, looking at the photo of the woman on the screen. Because of the mass scale of these killings and rapes it isn’t something the people of Darfur can escape. It isn’t something we, as journalists or human beings, should escape either. This should be confronted, and on a bigger scale than it is currently. This requires the efforts of the U.S. Government and other world leaders, but it also requires the pressure of citizens and the coverage of journalists to make a change.
To learn more, or to donate to stop the genocide, click here.

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