Officials at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, an institution that has played a major role in raising public awareness of the continuing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and galvanizing Jewish groups on the issue, are frustrated that the killing continues despite the worldwide outcry.
So this week the museum turned its faחade into a giant outdoor theater. The goal: to grab the attention of tourists in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and make them think about a humanitarian catastrophe that continues despite the widespread acknowledgment that it is, in fact, genocide.
This week, the museum, located just steps from Washington's Mall, projected emotionally charged images of Darfur on its exterior walls. The pictures were taken in Sudan and Chad, where many Darfur refugees are now living in refugee camps, by photojournalists and by Brian Steidel, a former marine who worked for the State Department as a cease-fire monitor in the region.
The idea for the unusual display came from Leslie Thomas, a Chicago architect. She felt very strongly that she wanted to do something about Darfur, and contacted a number of photographers who had taken pictures in Darfur and Chad and convinced them to donate images, said John Heffernan, director of the museums genocide prevention initiative.
The images will be shown in 24 cities, he said, with the museums huge outdoor display being the most dramatic presentation. Heffernan said the fact the slaughter continues unabated convinced the museum staff to escalate their effort to generate public awareness of the crisis.
We thought it was time to make a bold statement, to say that our walls are screaming and bursting out to bear witness to what is happening in Darfur, he said.
Using three powerful projectors, the display targets commuters traveling along busy 15th Street, museum visitors during one of the busiest weeks of the year and tourists on the nearby Mall.
Despite the ongoing killing in Sudan, Heffernan said that the museums involvement - along with that of a number of faith-based, student and human rights groups - has had an impact. This consciousness-raising has affected decision makers; more money has gone into the humanitarian effort, the administration has been more intimately involved in the political process, and I think all this effort has saved some lives.
The museum display came as an international coalition agreed in principle on a joint African Union - UN force to try to stop the slaughter. But it was not clear when the 27,000 member force might be deployed.
Still, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), another group active on the Darfur front, expressed cautious optimism.JCPA considers both the imprimatur of the United Nations and the idea of a significantly greater number of peacekeeping forces, with an explicit mandate to use force if necessary to protect civilians, to be essential in bringing security to the region, said Lois Frank, the JCPA chair in a statement. However, as we have seen with attempts to negotiate peace agreements with the Sudanese government in the past, words do not lead to actions and human beings continue to die.
(from:New York Jewish Week)