Guereda, Eastern Chad
Rosh Hashana 2009
As a rabbi I sit here welcoming in the new year with Darfuri refugees, people of great courage, strength and determination. I am here to celebrate the opportunity of a new year, with people who need not just our prayers but also our actions.
I have spent the day at the Mille camp, home to 17,000 Darfuri refugees. I first came here in 2004, soon after their arrival. A few remember my visit. They all remember your visit to Mille, also in 2004. Several people showed me their picture with you and told me how happy they are that you are now president.
Mr. President, the years since your visit have taken a great toll on the people. Some of the 13 year old girls you met are now mothers. Many of the boys are now soldiers. Many refugees have died and many new ones have arrived. The UN tents which are now severely torn and ravaged reflect the lives of the refugees.
Fifty babies a month are born in the Mille camp. Six hundred a year; about three thousand since your visit. Children like Sulaman, Hassan, Sumayah and Kadidya. They have wonderful smiles and beautiful eyes. Like our children, they want security, food, water and shelter. Thanks to the US, other countries and the humanitarian community, they have the minimal amount of each in order to survive.For them, for their parents, their daily prayer is to return to Darfur. They are innocent, good people, as you have said “victims of genocide.”
Enough is not being done. They are waiting…waiting very patiently for their nightmare to end. I have synthesized their message for you.
Remember us. Remember your time here at Mille. Remember our situation. Remember our faces. We want to go home to Darfur and live in peace. We want to rebuild our lives. Please, please Mr. President do everything in your power to help us. Too many years have gone by. We need you. We do not know what to do but have great confidence in you. Our prayers are with you and your family.
The Darfuri refugees in Mille, as communicated to Rabbi Lee Bycel on September 18, 2009.