Transcript: Thom & John Eibner in Darfur 14 March 2008, part 3.
Thom and John Eibner of CSI call in from Darfur to talk to Carl Wolfson.
Thom Hartmann and Dr. John Eibner in Darfur: 14 March 2008
Thom Hartmann traveled to Darfur in the Sudan with other talk show hosts to bring "Sacks of Hope" and to provide awareness of the Sudanese Refugees (more). Carl Wolfson was anchoring the show at the Portland, Oregon end.
[Carl]: Welcome back to the Thom Hartmann program. I'm Carl Wolfson along with our producer Shawn Taylor and the power behind the throne, Louise Hartmann. They're with us here in Portland Oregon, and we're speaking with Thom Hartmann who's on the ground in Darfur. And thomhartmann.com is the place to go to make your donation to the sacks of hope for Sudanese refugees in Darfur. Thom Hartmann along with Joe Madison, Ellen Ratner and other journalists over there in Darfur distributing those sacks of hope to the refugees and providing us with a great deal of insight and awareness to the situation there. Thom, welcome back to the show.
[Thom]: Well, thank you Carl. Let me add, I'm not here on behalf of a particular charity. I mean, there are a number of good ones. We're very, very pleased with CSI who organized this thing and brought us here and all that and they're a great group and there's a lot of groups that are doing very good work here in Darfur.
[Carl]: That's Christian Solidarity International.
[Thom]: Ah, yeah.
[Carl]: Thom, I wanted to, I know you've traveled all over the world and you're so well read, put this into context, in the context of humanity, if you will.
[Thom]: Just a second. John? Hey, John? Yeah, I'm on the air right now if you want to talk about this. Let me... Serve the goat?
[Carl]: This is great, live radio from one continent to another.
[Thom]: I'm a vegetarian so I'll pass.
[Carl]: I believe I heard the word goat.
[Thom]: Do you want to go eat the goat or do you want to talk for a minute with our listeners?
Here it is. Great. Great, why don't you, here's John from CSI. He can tell you a little about CSI, about what we're doing here and what the situation is like. You're talking to Carl.
[Carl]: Hello John.
[John]: Hello Carl, John Eibner from CSI here.
[Carl]: Yes, thank you for what you're doing. Christian Solidarity International, that's the group, right, John?
[John]: Yes, that's correct. Or CSI for short.
[Carl]: And, CSI for short, we know those initials. And is this your first trip to Darfur? CSI has been involved, I suspect you've been involved for quite a while.
[John]: Well, I've been coming to Sudan since 1992 and my colleague and I have made over 80 trips. We usually come about every 2 months to this area, so we're very familiar with it indeed.
[Carl]: And let's get your web site in here very quickly, John. Is it csi-int.org, is that right?
[John]: That's right, csi-int.org.
[Carl]: And tell us a little bit about CSI.
[John]: Well, CSI is quite a small Christian human rights organization. We campaign for, on the basis of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, that human rights belong to everybody and we have been campaigning against jihad in Sudan since our first trip here in 1992, and the genocidal process that is still going on in Darfur. It started here in Southern Sudan and we've been a part of a growing Sudan movement that is often recognized as a movement to save Darfur.
[Carl]: John, give us some scope of all your trips there. The conditions on the ground over time, there. Do you feel heartened now, do you feel hopeful now less or more since the beginning?
[John]: Well, right where I'm standing now people feel somewhat hopeful because there was a peace agreement in 2005 that stopped the civil war between the north and the south. But unfortunately, just as that peace agreement was being assigned, warfare broke out in Darfur. So where we are at the borderland, on this side of the border there is no fighting at the moment, but just on the other side of the border, you know, there is the genocide going on there where government-backed militias called the Janjaweed are burning villages, are raping women, snatching children and are bringing complete destruction to a huge community.
[Carl]: So it sounds like life is held by a slim thread there. and that at any day there can be hope and despair.
[John]: Indeed, and even where we are, where there at the moment is no fighting, today we have seen a group of 500 people who have, they're displaced people who have just arrived here from northern Sudan sleeping under trees; they're having no homes to go to. There are no facilities. We've seen kids with huge open wounds who will die unless they have some basic antibiotics and there are none here. So even where there is peace, death is ever present and so is misery and suffering.
[Carl]: We're speaking with Doctor John Eibner with Christian Solidarity International, csi-int.org is the web site. You can donate there as well as through thomhartmann.com which will link to csi-int.org, contribute to the sacks of hope that are being distributed right now by Dr. Eibner and Thom Hartmann, Joe Madison and others in Darfur and tell us about the sacks of hope. What are you distributing, John?
[John]: The sack contains basic items to help people restart their lives, so there'll be a mosquito net, there will be a big blanket, plastic sheeting where they can find some shelter from the sun, or should it rain later as it gets into the rainy season, have some shelter. A cooking pot, a jug for carrying and holding water. Some fishing hooks that people can catch fish and find something to eat. So this is just, these are really small items but they can make a big difference when a family, displaced family, turns up here; help them start their lives. We are also quite separately from the kit itself providing seed for planting and hoes. The planting season comes up in May and so we want to start putting the tools that people need to cultivate into their hands so that they're hopefully by the end of the summer no longer dependent on aid.
[Carl]: John, I know from history, I think, that in great issues of humanity the people have often been ahead of governments. I don't guess you're a political organization, but are you frustrated some times by governments, whether they be our government of governments internationally? Do you get frustrated at what you might see as blocking progress here?
[John]: Yes, well I do get very frustrated and often angry. The primary interests of most governments are not to help suffering people. They have other priorities and so there are marginalized people such as the ones that we encounter here who nobody has an interest in. No government has an interest in them, there is no great economic power that has an interest in them and they are just left to their own devices and others who are powerful who have an interest in grabbing their land, are grabbing their resources, can kill and enslave and displace with impunity. This has been going on in Sudan for well over 25 years; 22 years in the south and more recently the same process of genocide has erupted in Darfur. It's been going on far too long. Governments know about it, the public knows about it yet it continues.
[Carl]: John, I'm sure just about everyone within the range of our voices understands, has a good heart about this, I would hope so. Beyond contributing to sacks of hope, what could you ask the individual American to do
beyond what they have done now?
[John]: Well, we would ask, you know, we would ask them to raise their voices. As I say, we are not a political organization in a party political sense but we definitely believe that people should be involved in public affairs and make their voice heard. So we would urge all listeners to write to presidential candidates and their, especially their favorite candidate, and ask them what they're going to do about this genocidal situation in Sudan.
[Carl]: Have you, have CSI done that?
[John]: Something that all public minded citizens can and should do.
[Carl]: Has CSI done that on its own as an organization, and asking Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John McCain what they would do, how they would engage?
[John]: Yes, well, we have asked some of the candidates. Our representative was actually at one of the Republican public debates and was able to put that question to them. He wasn't in a position to do so in one of the Democratic debates. But far more is needed than somebody raising a question, because you will get a politician's answer and everybody that's running for president now will have a very good, smooth answer to give such a question. What the politicians, and especially the candidates, need to know is that the American people care. It shouldn't be so much a question to them, it should be a statement of caring; that the American public wants them to place this high on their agenda should they be elected and end up in the White House or even if they are defeated, that they will carry on in the Senate or wherever they may be and try to bring this terrible human tragedy to an end.
[Carl]: You know, so often, Darfur, the word genocide's used as an applause line, frankly, at political events by politicians, by those running and not running, and we need it translated not from a sound bite and an applause line into action. What you're doing, what Thom Hartmann is doing. I'm looking at your web site, csi-int.org, and, you know, a picture speaks a thousand words and you have testimonials, pictures up at this web site. Will you be doing some videography while you're there, John?
[John]: Yes, my colleague takes great video material and I'm sure that Thom will come back with some fantastic material for you.
[Carl]: Great. John, we've got to run. Thanks for what you're doing. Dr. John Eibner, Christian Solidarity International on the ground in Darfur. Carl Wolfson with you on the Thom Hartmann Program. Right now 44 minutes past the hour.
This was the fifth segment of Thom's call in to the show; the third segment of the second hour.