Darfur Gets Help From 'Neighbors'

What do the blistering desert heat of Darfur and the suburban sunshine of Fort Wayne, Ind., have to do with each other? Meet Beth Reilly: housewife and mother of three.

"The world is getting smaller. ... Our neighborhood is not just in our hometown. Our neighbor is someone in need, wherever that might be," Reilly tells CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts.

A tree-hugging liberal she's not. But as a devout Christian, Beth and the congregation at Aldersgate United Methodist Church are part of an American grassroots effort. Petition campaigns led by churches and synagogues have put Darfur into America's consciousness; 70,000 people turned out for a rally in Washington.

"Love in the Bible is not a sentiment. Love is action," Reilly says. She agrees that it's like the African proverb, "When you pray, move your feet."

The efforts to save the people of Darfur is a movement of historic proportions, say the experts.

"It's probably been the most extraordinary public response to an African issue since the anti-apartheid movement," says John Prendergast of International Crisis Group.

For more information about the crisis in Darfur or to find out how to help, go to www.savedarfur.org.

Prendergast was President Clinton's Senior Adviser on Africa. He credits one simple sentence from the Bush administration two years ago — when the president said "Genocide has been committed in Darfur," on Sept. 9, 2004 — for sparking renewed interest in Africa.

"When genocide comes into the picture, I think that just brings a different level of engagement in many people," says Prendergast.

It's an issue that resonates deeply for Jewish Americans. Just 65 years after Hitler's genocide took nearly 13 million lives, Jewish organizations have raised more than $4 million in aid for Darfur.

"You see civilians being killed. You see women being raped. All because of their identity. That strikes a chord because of the historic memory of the Holocaust," says Jerry Fowler of the Committee For Conscience.

Beth Reilly adds, "...You hear people talk about charity fatigue, people are just tired of helping, whether it's Indonesia, Katrina, Iraq, people are just tired. ... I don't think that's a very good answer for a mother in Darfur, do you? ... 'Try to protect you and your children and try to get food to you while you're in a camp, I'm tired?'"

Asked if she feels like an activist, she replies, "I've been labeled an activist." But if she had to chose her label, she would chose "neighbor."

For Reilly — and thousands of Americans like her — the neighborhood is now a thousand miles wide.
  • Sean Alfano

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter