A letter to the ambassador and staff of the Chinese Embassy

posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy on May 15th, 2008

This letter was faxed to the embassy today, in anticipation of a protest next week.

Dear Sirs and Madams,

As a peace activist who has witnessed the tragedy of avoidable loss of life in war zones, I offer you and your people my heartfelt condolence for the suffering caused by the recent earthquake in your country. As a parent, I am especially sympathetic to all those Chinese parents whose children were injured or killed.

It is my desire to spare other parents this same agony that inspires me to write to you today. In December 2004, as a member of a Catholic Worker Peace Team, I visited Darfur, Sudan where I witnessed enormous harm inflicted on hundreds of thousands of civilians by the Sudanese army and its militias. We delivered food to many in pitiful camps for internally displaced people, but realized that only an end to the Sudanese government’s genocidal campaign against its African citizens could truly restore those victims to health and safety. When we asked Sudanese human rights activists what was the most effective nonviolent action we could take to end genocide in Darfur, we were told to protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC. We have done this several times since then, but have become increasingly aware that diplomatic efforts to end the genocide have been frustrated by the continued economic, military, and political support being given to the Sudanese government by the government of China.

And so, on Tuesday, May 20, at 9 a.m., we will hold a small, peaceful vigil outside your embassy and then march to the Embassy of Sudan for another solemn vigil. We do not do these things to point fingers or to stir up anti-Chinese or anti-Sudanese sentiments, but to reach out to the good people in both governments who can use their influence to end the genocide and save lives. Our signs will say, “China’s Support for Sudan- an Olympic Mistake.” We realize that our own government has made many mistakes as well, most notably in Iraq, and we are trying to change those policies as well, but cannot forget the vulnerable people of Darfur in the meantime.

Earthquakes, typhoons, and tornadoes will always take innocent lives, but humanity can decide that no more children, women, and men will die from genocide. Your government has enormous power to help save lives in Darfur. Taking unambiguous action to persuade the Sudanese government to end the killing and to allow unfettered access to Darfur for United Nations’ personnel would help make the Olympic celebration in Beijing more joyful and freer from controversy.

With respect and admiration for the Chinese people,

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy

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