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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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September 15, 2006     582 Words

Nick and George Clooney Shed Light on Genocide in Darfur

CINCINNATI—The genocide that is happening to the people of Darfur, a poor district of Sudan, is heartbreaking: Two million Darfuris have been driven from their villages, their homes burned, tens of thousands of them butchered, raped, tortured, beaten, their cattle killed or stolen, their wells poisoned—sometimes with the bodies of the dead. By last July, according to conservative estimates, 250,000 had died and the lives of two million more hang by a thread.

Veteran news journalist Nick Clooney and his son, actor George Clooney, traveled to nearby Chad for a firsthand account of the tragedies occurring throughout the region. Nick Clooney’s report is the subject of St. Anthony Messenger’s October cover story entitled “George and Nick Clooney: ‘Stop the Genocide in Darfur.’” The article also contains G. Jefferson Price III’s sidebar called “A Relief Worker’s Story,” about Matthew McGarry, a Catholic Relief Services worker who had been in Darfur. After September 20, the article will be found at: AmericanCatholic.org.

“Juiced” by his 2006 Oscar win for Syriana and wanting to shed light on the genocide in Darfur, George Clooney and his father traveled to a refugee camp in the northeast corner of Chad, which borders Sudan. It is home to 29,000 people who were driven from their villages. Just a few miles from the camp is a region of the Sudan bearing a name that has registered strongly upon the world’s conscience: Darfur.

Nick spoke with a refugee who lost nine members of his family a year before. He explains why this situation is happening. “Think about this,” he said. “That man”—referring to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir—“is Sudanese, I am Sudanese. He is Muslim, I am Muslim. But he is Arab and I am African. He has contempt for me. He despises me. He wishes me to be dead.”

The Darfuri man explains the horrors that he and others have endured: First would come the bombers which would rain down explosives on the helpless village. That would be followed by helicopter gun ships, hitting anything that moved. Villagers, trying to recover from the shock of the air attack, would hear hoofbeats. Over the horizon would come the janjaweed, or “devil riders”—rogue militia from the more northern reaches of Sudan. Mounted on horses or camels, they are ruthless killers who destroy whatever they touch.

With this harrowing information, Nick and George returned to the States, armed with interviews, photographs and memories, and took to the airwaves to spread the message of Darfur. They were interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NPR, AP Radio and others. The following day, Nick and George were interviewed by Katie Couric on Today. A rally in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the victims in Darfur, in April, drew 30,000 people, with some estimates north of 70,000.

Despite the Clooneys’ valiant efforts, Nick is still haunted by the faces of Darfuri refugees. “Their faces wake me up in the middle of the night,” he writes. “All of them. Are they all right? Did they make it through another day? Will they ever be able to go home and live out their lives in peace?”

Today he is left with more questions than answers. One question is something many of the world’s citizens have asked themselves: “Might this be one genocide we could stop in its tracks?”

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