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Walkers Raise $15,000 for Darfur

By Sue Doyle, Daily News Staff Writer
June 3, 2007

WEST HILLS — Some 400 people joined a three-mile walk Sunday, raising an estimated $15,000 toward aid for refugees escaping violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Participants want to put the deadly clashes on politicians' radar so America will take a stronger and louder role against Sudan's government, which critics allege is behind the bloodshed that began in 2003.

Nobody knows for sure just how many have been killed in the struggle between local rebels and government forces over water resources and land. However, international agencies have estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 people have died and 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur, located in western Sudan.

Saying it's time to get involved and stop the atrocities, Jewish World Watch, an Encino-based nonprofit, sponsored Sunday's walk to spread the word.

"Darfur is unfortunately now infamous for being the first genocide of this century," said Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, executive director of the organization.

Sudanese leaders have refused to allow 20,000 troops from the United Nations and the African Union peacekeeping force into Darfur.

Taking punitive steps against the country, President George W. Bush last week banned 31 Sudanese companies and some individuals from doing business with U.S. companies and banks.

Because Sudan does much of its trade with Arab and Asian nations, some critics say America's sanctions will have little economic effect on the country.

"We need instead to turn to the world's oil companies and say, "You've got to get out of Sudan," said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, who spoke to participants at the event.

Walkers began and ended the three-mile route at the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance, which also sponsored the event.

For fifth-graders Eva Gellman and Caila Glickman, Sunday's walk fulfilled an assignment to do at least one weekly charity at their school — Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, a Northridge Jewish day school.

The walk also gave the 11-year-olds time to think about children their own age in Darfur and the suffering they face.

"It makes you realize that you have so much and other people don't," said Eva. "And that you should help them."

To symbolize some of history's genocides, six tents were set up in the alliance's courtyard to represent Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Well-wishers wrote messages of love, hope and peace on the white canvas tents.

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