By Marilyn Ferdinand
I was watching the news on BBC America yesterday and got the bad news that a health crisis is looming in eastern Chad. Thousands of refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan have been living in makeshift refugee camps, and malnutrition and disease are making inroads. Attending the Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting in Milwaukee on March 23–25 gave me all of the grim statistics from Darfur—400,000 dead, 2 million displaced—and prepared me for bad news out of Chad. Another regional catastrophe of biblical proportions is teetering on the brink.
In one of those not-entirely-coincidental coincidences, actress Mia Farrow, a United Nations UNICEF goodwill ambassador, condemned director Steven Spielberg for participating in staging the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Spielberg visited China in March to help with the preparations—one assumes that he will have a hand in the filming of the event. Farrow pointed out what I learned, and what was protested at Chinese consulates across the country on March 30—that China is a major funder of the holocaust in Darfur. Referring to the genius German director who filmed Olympiad, the 1933 “Nazi” Olympics in Berlin, Farrow said Spielberg risked becoming known as the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games.” The irony of a man who founded the Shoah Foundation to record the experiences of victims of the Nazi Holocaust now participating in an event by one of the great human rights violators on the planet certainly cannot be lost on anyone.
Farrow’s speaking out, of course, was probably meant to boost the profile of the protests and shame Spielberg and other influential voices into pressuring China to cut off funding to the Sudanese government for arms transfers. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about Darfur. Believe me, you’ll be plenty tired of hearing about Darfur AND Chad. And one country that is just starting to show some signs of distress over this conflict, the Central African Republic, can be rescued if we act to prevent the further spread of violence and population displacement. Let Steven Spielberg, the Chinese consulate, and corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics (Coca-Cola is one) know that any country that encourages the destruction and displacement of 2.4 million people does not deserve their support.l