YEREVAN–Less than one year before the much-anticipated Beijing Olympic Games begin, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenia’s, and prominent human rights activists pointedly connected the government of China to the first genocide of the 21st century in a torch lighting ceremony at a site commemorating the first genocide of the 20th century.
Archbishop Williams stated, “Today, we honored victims and survivors of genocides of the past century, linking them together through our passing of a torch signifying the hope that we share for an end to the violence in Darfur. I join these survivors in standing up to say that although the international community has stood by silently again and again while the blood of innocent human beings is shed, we must now make the phrase %u218never again’ a reality.”
“Following many years of indifference, the Chinese government is now asserting that it has been a leader for peace in Darfur. But even in the best of scenarios, there will not be an adequate peacekeeping force on the ground for many months,” said Jill Savitt, Director of Dream for Darfur. “We must continue pressing China so that the next Olympic Games, an international symbol of peace and brotherhood, are not hosted by a nation that is complicit in the ultimate international crime.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Darfur advocates and Armenian genocide survivors, lit the torch at the eternal flame at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. The torch was then passed around the eternal flame in a somber ceremony honoring survivors of genocide and remembering the lives lost both in Darfur, and in previous genocides of the 20th century.
“This flame honors those who have been lost and those who suffer; this flame celebrates the courage of those who have survived; this flame represents the hope we all share for an end to the violence and a safe return home,” said Omer Ismail, a Sudanese survivor from Darfur, as he passed the torch.
The Dream for Darfur symbolic Olympic Torch Relay began on the border of strife-ridden Darfur and Chad in August, where Mia Farrow and other Darfur advocates lit the torch. The Relay then traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, where survivors of the Rwandan genocide passed the torch from the site where thousands of Tutsis were killed after UN forces withdrew. After Armenia, the Torch Relay will continue to other countries associated with genocide and mass slaughter ‘s Bosnia, Germany, and Cambodia, ending in Hong Kong to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, China’s own experience with the murder of innocents. Dream for Darfur, a year-long campaign undertaken with the support of a worldwide network of Darfur advocates, is both asking and demanding that China, in its role as Olympic host and close partner of Sudan, use its unique influence with Khartoum to end the suffering in Darfur–before the Games begin in August, 2008. The campaign motto is “China, Please: Bring the Olympic Dream to Darfur.”
In solidarity with the international torch relay, a relay will be held in 25 states in the United States between September and December to build public pressure on China in regard to its dual roles as Olympic host and sponsor of a genocidal regime. More info can be found at: www.savedarfur.org/torchrelay. National relays are also slated for Canada, Italy, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, and South Africa. In seeking to enlist China’s intensive involvement in resolving the Darfur crisis, the Dream for Darfur campaign is contacting the IOC, national Olympic committees, and corporate sponsors of the ’08 Olympics.
“We welcomed China’s recent UN vote to allow a peacekeeping force into Sudan, but China now must press Sudan to ensure that the words on paper translate into action,” said Savitt. “We will continue our campaign until China uses its influence with Khartoum and we see adequate and verifiable security on the ground in Darfur.”