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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PROVIDENCE OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY ON BEHALF OF DARFUR AND SPEAKING TO CHINA


I DID SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE
AND IS WAY OUTSIDE THE BOX OF MY COMFORTABILITY RANGE. I organized for the DREAM FOR DARFUR campaign a Torch Relay and Ceremony for my state of Rhode Island. As an activist for the people of Darfur, I want the slaughter, maiming, raping, starving, terrorizing them, the burning of their villages to end. I want the human beings on the planet who have freedoms to stand up and speak out and pressure those who have the leverage to influence Sudan to stop the genocide on the Darfuri people.
Edwin Mutanguha, left, from Rwanda, passes a torch to his brother Edward Mutanguha, both freshman at Salve Regina University, on the steps of the Statehouse in Providence, R.I., during the symbolic 'Dream for Darfur Olympic Torch Relay', Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007. Rhode Island Darfur activists held the Providence leg of the torch relay which will happen in combination with 60 torch relays across the United States. A peace conference in Libya is part of an international effort to try to end over four years of fighting that have killed more than 200,000 people in Sudan's western region of Darfur. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Murakoze Edward and Edwin!


On the right in the back is Channel 12 news who interviewed Edwin Mutanguha.
I missed our event on television Saturday night and all day Sunday
when I hear it aired repeatedly.


Walking up the South Side of the Rhode Island Statehouse

The Providence leg of the symbolic Olympic Torch Relay took place last Saturday, October 27, 2007 - the same day that Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, had so-called Peace Talks in Sirte, Libya for the Darfur situation. Call me a cynic, but I don't have faith in Moammar Gadhafi. And I have no faith in Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who "says" there will be a cease-fire. I don't know how he can say there will be a cease-fire on his government's behalf, because he has always claimed that they weren't "firing" any weapons. How do you stop what you aren't doing?


Our Torch Relay event was a part of the on-going symbolic Dream for Darfur Olympic Torch Relay that is currently traveling to more than 60 cities across the United States, as well as the international Torch Relays that have already taken place and will take place before the Beijing, China Olympics open next summer.
Edward Mutanguha leading us around the Rhode Island Statehouse to the north side for the Ceremony on the plaza side.

In the summer of 2008, athletes from around the world will be competing at the XXIX Olympics in Beijing, China. The theme of these games – "One World, One Dream". But the world is asking: Can the Olympic Games truly stand for "One World, One Dream" while China is underwriting the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan? China buys more than $2 billion worth of oil from Sudan. The Khartoum regime has used much of its oil wealth to commit mass atrocities in Darfur, including arming militias that are attacking villages. In addition to being empowered by an influential voice on the United Nations Security Council, China continues to import 70% of Sudan’s oil. With those funds Sudan purchases weapons from China, which are used to commit genocide on the people of Darfur.


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From Our Providence Torch Relay's Torch Lighting at Waterplace Park
What Was Said...

We meet here to stand with the people of Darfur. We honor the Darfuri families, who live with injustice with every breath they take. Instead of participating in and watching the Olympics of Beijing, China next summer, they will be living under a tree, piece of plastic or makeshift shelter. After a moment of silence - we will walk the unlit symbolic Olympic torch to the front of the Fidelity Office where we will light it. (Fidelity Investment Company takes American citizens' mutual funds and invests in Chinese oil companies, PetroChina and Sinopec, in Sudan - thereby funding the genocide with USA citizens money.) The gong will be struck 8 times to signify the beginning of our Torch Relay on behalf of the Darfur people, who should be included in the Beijing, China Olympics, whose chosen theme is ONE WORLD, ONE DREAM. The number 8, Chinese number, ba, is considered the luckiest number. It is no coincidence that the Summer Olympics in Beijing will open on 8/ 8/08 at 8:00 p.m. While our symbolic Olympic torch was lit, the three statements were said in unity:

€ This flame honors those who have been lost and those who suffer.
€ This flame celebrates the courage of those who have survived.
€ This flame symbolizes the hope we share for an end to the violence in Darfur and an end to genocide everywhere.”
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This ceremony today is a way to address the Darfur crisis – a way to demand that international community takes action now. We choose this Torch Relay as opportunity to tap into the ideals of the Olympics, but also to call on the host of the 2008 Olympics, the government of China, to do more to help end the genocide. Your presence today shows your concern for Darfur – those gathered here are acting in ways our leaders should, but have not. Today, we gather to call on China to take immediate and urgent action on Darfur. All of us here - and joined by activists around the country, and the world - are part of a growing anti-genocide movement – a powerful civil-society force that is working to address the Darfur crisis, and to be powerful and informed enough to address genocide anywhere as unacceptable. There are 60 Torch Relays in 60 cities taking place in the United States over a few months time.

Edward Mutanguha
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While I have been thinking about this day, I remembered when my father invited an Olympic track star to speak at our high school’s annual athletic banquet. I grew up in Indiana and my father was a high school teacher and coach. This track star was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave. He also was the first American in the history of Olympic Track and Field to win four gold medals in a single Olympics. The story of Jesse Owens is relevant to today’s Torch Relay event. The year that Mr. Owens became world famous was in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, that are also known as the Hitler Olympics. It is worth noting that on March 22, 1933, the first extermination camp was opened in Dachau, Germany and began its ugly business of committing crimes against humanity that later was called – genocide. So at the same time that the death camps were operating, people and Hitler were sitting in the stands watching the Olympian athletes in Berlin compete. The Olympic Torch Relay as we know it today was actually introduced at the very Olympic games in Berlin in 1936.

Today, the Official Website of the Beijing Torch Relay states “The Olympic Flame is the highest symbol of the Olympic spirit. The Olympic Torch Relay is a celebration of human peace and friendship. Under the guidance of International Olympic Committte, Beijing is working closely with the relay cities around the world, widely promoting the theme of ‘One World, One Dream,’ upholding the torch relay concept that is ‘a journey of harmony’ to make the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay a complete success.”

I dare to say - that complete success is not possible, if the “journey of harmony” is soiled by the lack of extending the theme “One World, One Dream” to Darfur. China needs to use its influence with Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, to help bring the genocide to an end.

While the Olympics’ host country has the world’s eyes on it, we ask the 2008 Olympic theme to not exclude the Darfuri people, but to include the Darfur people. While it sits on the UN Security Council, China supports the Sudanese government…the government who has been coordinating the genocide in Darfur with the janjaweed for over four and half years with weapons purchased from China. Darfur is a part of the world and needs the Olympic dream desperately.


Like the irony of the Berlin games in 1936, the 2008 Beijing games will have its own irony if China ignores its role in the Darfur genocide.
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Three Things to do were given to the crowd:

1. The current bill in the Senate – SUDAN ACCOUNTABILITY & DIVESTMENT ACT – referred to as S-A-D-A, SADA, must be passed over any Presidential veto. The House sister bill passed 418 to 1. You can help and ask our Senators to sponsor this bill by calling 1 – 800 – GENOCIDE. “We the People” have power that needs to be utilized.


2. Learn about divestment by going to
www.Sudandivestment.org or www.investorsagainstgenocide.org

3. Go to
www.dreamfordarfur.org to the the “Take Action” page and sign the petition to the International Olympic Committee .

Use Your Voice for people who presently have no voice. Let us not be defined with our inaction or lack of speaking up when the right thing to do is to speak up and until we are understood. Genocide Stops With Us.


We thank you so much for attending the Olympic Dream for Darfur Providence Torch Relay.
We use this torch relay to highlight the ideals of the Olympics, while calling on the host of the 2008 Olympics, the government of China, to do more to help end the genocide in Darfur. As you can see, you are part of something powerful and important. We stand here today and call for an end to the Darfur crisis. We know Americans want to help the people of Darfur, and participating in our relay and taking our actions is an important way to do this.
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Submitted for www.savedarfur.org website:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) were the words that began the day.

On October 27, The Providence, Rhode Island Dream for Darfur Torch Relay and Ceremony was welcomed by student and community activists, in spite of the forecast for rain. In Rhode Island’s first opportunity to come together and stand united with people around the world, the message was for the Beijing Olympics theme of “One World, One Dream” to include Darfur in The Dream.

Lighting the torch at the Fidelity Investment Company door, a symbolic Darfur family, the Mays, began the relay after the 50 gathered people cited three statements of solidarity for the Darfur people and 8 gong strikes – the Chinese lucky number - by ten-year old Sara Mays. At the RI Statehouse lawn, Edwin Mutanguha carried the torch up the hillside of steps handing the torch to his twin brother, Edward Mutanguha. Edward carried the torch to the stage at the Statehouse plaza to the song of “Miyela Africa” where the crowd grew to 180. The t-shirts worn by the crowd stated “I CARRY THE TORCH FOR DARFUR”.

Speakers included U.S. RI Representative James Langevin, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Mindy Wachtenheim, Board of Director member of the Holocaust Education and Resource Center in Providence, Rhode Island, Scott Warren, Executive Director of STAND and Sandra Hammel, the Providence organizer. Keynote speakers were twin nineteen year old Rwandans, Edward and Edwin Mutanguha, freshmen at Salve Regina University in Newport.

Edward and Edwin shared their personal stories of their life with genocide. The attendees were leaning in listening to both young men tell us their perspectives of living as refugees for 7 years: speaking to a man who had his arm chopped off to keep his head from being severed in Rwanda’s genocide, being told by the elementary school principal not to eat fish in the river because their countrypeople’s bodies were floating down it in 1994, feeling uneasy and unwelcome living as a refugee. Edwin said, “Today I stand in front of you as a student, a fellow human being and a responsible citizen of the world. Today, we are all uniting for a common cause, all from different backgrounds, but with one thing in mind, to be responsible for each other and be conscious of what is going on around us. Our world is becoming a global village and it is no longer possible for us to live obliviously and inconsiderately.”

Edward spoke from his heart “I would like to remind everybody about something that you have that the rest of the world envies; your FREEDOM. With this freedom, comes rights. I urge you to use your rights as citizens of a free nation to help the people of Darfur obtain their freedom and their right to live.”

The Mutanguha young men’s wish is for people to know what is happening to the Darfur people and to do what it takes to stop the genocide. Edwin asked “Let us do all that is in our power to ensure… a beacon of light. I implore you to change the message that we are sending to our brothers and sisters in Sudan. Let’s change ‘Never Again’ to ‘Not Now, Not Ever; Not On Our Watch!’”

Edward and Edwin brought their classmates from Salve University

Applause broke out when Sandra Hammel said "'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.' We are here to say we are not silent about Darfur." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Music was provided by the RI Darfur Ensemble, including “A Prayer for Africa” in Swahili, African instruments accompanied “Kwaheri”, also in Swahili. “One Voice” with Darfur lyrics infused and the inspiring song, “Stand Up for Love”.


Attendees signed the Dream for Darfur Petition to the International Olympic Committee to tell the IOC: “Bring the Olympic Dream to the People of Darfur”.

Edward Mutanguha signing the Rhode Island screen to be forwarded to Washington, D.C. for the December 10th Olympic Torch Relay on Human Rights Day.

We got media coverage from the following places. I have removed the links as they no longer take you to the relevant article.

Libya on Yahoo! News Photos

Newport This Week

Newport Daily Newspaper

CBS local station, Channel 12 aired a news clip October 27 and 28.

A Providence Dream for Darfur Torch Relay video will be uploaded at Youtube.

Murabeho.

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2 Comments:

At October 31, 2007 at 9:57:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Al said...

Congratulations! It sounds like it was an amazing day that received quite a bit of coverage; no doubt reaching some people what that were previously unaware. Great job, you should feel very proud.

 
At November 1, 2007 at 2:14:00 AM EDT , Blogger ilovemylife said...

Thank you, Al.

Encouragement is always welcome.

 

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