Mar 21, 2005
Today I attended a conference at the World Trade Center downtown. The conference is the "Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Re-Development Conference & Exhibition" aka DIHAD. The subject of today's panel discussion was "Challenges of Ongoing Crises" specifically in Darfur, Sudan. On the panel was the Undersecretary for the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, the Secretary General of Al Zubair Charity Organization, the Programs Manager for Medecins sans Frontieres, and the Special Representative to Darfur at UNICEF. Although I have read about the situation in Darfur prior to this discussion, it did not prepare me nearly enough for the emotions and thoughts presented today. It is one thing, of course, to read about conflict or devastation in the newspaper or online, but to hear it from the mouths of people who experience it day after day is an entirely different situation. I experience the same type of feeling when I speak to Iranians about post-revolution Iran. In the United States, things seem so distant and now, even though I am still hearing about events second-hand, the events seem much more real. It's as though before when I read about these historic and current events, they were merely stories. Now they have become reality. The situation in Darfur is now more real than ever to me. I have a face to associate it with...I know what it sounds like...I have heard a Sudanese man on the panel shout to the crowd, "This is important and the people need to hear what I have to say!" Quite an experience...I don't know what else to say...