In 1993, at the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there were many who said “Never again.” One year later a panga blade split the first Rwandan head, then 800,000 more. Are genocides and crimes against humanity scourges that will pass only after they have run their course and hundreds of thousands have died? Can no one stop the killing?
The United Nations and its member nations have failed and disappointed in profound ways. Those who are targeted by killers are often villagers who have the misfortune to come from a different ethnic or religious group. These ordinary individuals placed their hopes in the UN, trusting that the UN could protect them and their families, and many met death still thinking the UN might save them.
We have seen civilian populations in conflict areas. We have seen those who have lost hope. We have shared their fear and felt helpless with them. Today, we no longer feel helpless.
Dr. Mukesh Kapila
Humanitarian, Health and Development Expert, Human Rights Advocate
Dr. Mukesh Kapila is Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester. He has extensive experience in the policy and practice of international development, humanitarian affairs, and diplomacy, including human rights, disaster and conflict management, and in global public health.
He is also Special Representative of the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity. Previously he was Under Secretary General at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian and development network. His early career was in clinical medicine, primary health care, and public health in the British National Health Service in Oxfordshire, Cambridge, and London, where he helped set up the UK’s first national HIV and AIDS programme at the Health Education Authority, becoming its deputy director. He then joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Overseas Development Administration (subsequently Department for International Development), initially as senior health and population adviser and latterly as the first head of a new Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department.
Dr. Kapila went on to become the Special Adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and then Special Adviser at the UN Mission in Afghanistan. Subsequently, he led the UN's largest country mission at the time as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan, and then became a Director at the World Health Organization. He has also been Chief Executive of the PHG Foundation, a senior policy adviser to the World Bank, worked as part of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination system, and advised the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, International Labour Organization, UNAIDS, and many other agencies.
He has initiated several NGOs, and is currently Chair of the Council of Minority Rights Group International. He has served on the Boards of the UN Institute for Training and Research, the International Peace Academy in New York, and many other bodies. Dr. Kapila is a Senior Member of Hughes Hall College at Cambridge University and an associate at the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria, Canada. Dr. Kapila was born in India and is a citizen of the United Kingdom. He has qualifications in medicine, public health, and development from the Universities of Oxford and London. In 2003, he was honored by Queen Elizabeth II and named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his international service. In 2007, he received the Global Citizenship Award of the Institute for Global Leadership.
Human Rights Attorney and Advocate
My name is Mayada Elmaki and I was born in Khartoum. I was educated at Al Neelain University where I majored in Law in 2006. My first job was providing legal aid in Khartoum with People’s Legal Aid Centre (PLACE) between 2006 and 2008.
During this period I was involved in working with internally displaced persons (IDPs) who came from the South and Darfur to Khartoum , where they experienced a range of human rights abuses including, war, lack of basic services, economic insecurity and hunger.
This experience has changed the way I see life and opened my eyes to the massive injustice that people in Sudan face, in conflict areas.
As a response I have recently studied Maters in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at University of Essex hoping to learn more about Human Rights so I can put my new knowledge and skills to practical use.
In the UK I am based in London and involved in different voluntary work with Amnesty in Middle East Program and currently I work with Freedom from Torture as volunteer legal assistant and with Groundswell Charity as Homeless Health Peer Advocate.
With this background I would appreciate the chance of joining Our Humanity in the Balance, hoping to be a useful addition to the organisation that is made up of dedicated and successful human rights thinkers and practitioners.
Wife, Mother & Grandmother
Growing up in privileged society I was partially blinded to the outside world and its problems. I mean ... I could read what was in the newspaper, and put it down. I could watch the news, then change the channel. And even until recently I could see what was on the internet, and just scroll down. It wasn't that I didn't care, but what was someone like me going to do?
I have always done some kind of volunteer work, even as a teenager. I worked in homes for the disabled, have done hospice for the dying and even walked the streets to help the homeless. But it wasn't until my children were grown and I became grandmother that I knew I needed to step it up. I had more of me to give.
By chance I met two individuals who opened my eyes wide. They made me take a closer look at what was happening outside my small comfortable space and I couldn't look away any longer. I knew this was the time, the place and the organization that I needed to be part of.
I am here to do whatever I can to leave this world a better place, not just for me and my family, but for everyone. My faith has told me, " I am my brothers keeper"
The seeds have been planted.
.... Let it Rain!
International Law Lecturer and Independent Researcher and Consultant
Nasredeen Abdulbari is an international law lecturer and independent researcher and consultant. He was a lecturer in the International and Comparative Law Department, University of Khartoum. He also worked as a Harvard Law School Human Rights Program Satter Fellow, where he spent a year working with the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO). In East Africa, Abdulbari was a senior researcher at the Rift Valley Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. He authored articles that were published in academic journals such as the Journal of African Law, London University. He is a co-author of a book in Arabic titled "The Future Constitution of Sudan: Aspirations and Views" published in 2013 by Ahfad University for Women, Khartoum, Sudan. He occasionally writes op-eds for the Star newspaper in Nairobi, Kenya on South Sudan and Sudan-related issues.
Educator and Counsellor, Humanitarian and Peace Activist
I have witnessed first-hand the unimaginable suffering and devastation of armed conflict at an early age. I was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada with my family, in my early teens. My carefree childhood and the life I had known came to a sudden halt in 1983, due to the ethnic riots where thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians were killed and many more made homeless, as well as refugees.
My new life thus began over a quarter of a century ago and I remain humbled and grateful. As I continue to hear of struggles within the post war population, especially in the war ravaged northern region of Sri Lanka - I am faced with an undeniable truth; what stands between a woman - who at this very moment is battling to survive - in the streets of Jaffna and me is 'opportunity'.
This simple yet, profound truth comes with a greater responsibility; I see this responsibility as an inherent and welcome obligation of a global citizen.
In 2007, I had the privilege of visiting the DR Congo and volunteering there for a short period of time. My trip to Africa was life altering - this visit has served to influence the next chapter in my contribution; I feel a deep calling to pursue conflict resolution.
My own personal journey as a war affected youth, enhanced by my collective experiences of work, study and travels abroad have truly prepared me to serve at the next level. I am inspired by OHIB's resolute commitment to vision and grateful for this opportunity.
Is not our liberation bound to that of the masses?
We are bound together inexplicably ... thread by thread ... within the depths of our despair, as in the heights of our glory ~ Such is the fabric of our humanity.
I became sensitized to genocide 17 years ago while filming a documentary for UNHCR about the effects of genocide in Rwanda and on the refugees in the surrounding countries of Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania. It has rarely been far from my thoughts since. I have also spent extended periods in Burundi, Sri Lanka, DR Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, so seeing the impact of unrestrained violence on civilian populations has reinforced my belief that it must be stopped.
With the spread of modern weapons and the breakdown of governments, genocide and atrocity crimes have increased. Civilian populations in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan, eastern Congo, Zimbabwe and Burma are being targeted with little effective response from the global community. New outbreaks of atrocity crimes are no longer surprising, nor are half hearted responses from the institutions whose charters were created to prevent such atrocities. Activist fatigue is common in the absence of successes. The world wants and needs a success.
Our Humanity in the Balance does not presume to have all the answers. Rather, we think new approaches should be considered. The refugee camps in Darfur, eastern Chad and elsewhere are brimming with children who have never seen their home villages and consider the blue plastic tents home; many will die too soon to know differently. For most refugees, life in the camps is a descent into Hell. Refugees are often malnourished and traumatized when they arrive, and may be separated from their families; they have few possessions, no work, no independence, and little hope. Children are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. The life of a refugee is perilous, stressful, and difficult, and no one would voluntarily choose to be a refugee. Empathy and compassion alone will not save them.
Advocate, Activist and Author
My motivation for this is to make sure that future generations of women, young and old people of my country live to witness peace in the place they once called their Homeland without any shame. The suffering must end, and the support of the world must never cease for there are so many decimated lives in Sudan.
I join open heartedly to prevent the escalation of the suffering in my Homeland. I am asking this Our Humanity in the Balance team and others with the power to restore peace in my country to help me salvage what is left of our dignity and restore human rights for all.
Filmmaker, Journalist and Author
Damien Lewis is an award winning and internationally bestselling British author. He has co-authored several books with women and men from the developing world, including the acclaimed memoir and international bestseller Slave, written with Mende Nazer, published in some thirty-six languages worldwide, and winner of the 2004 Index on Censorship Book Award.
In the summer of 2008 he published Tears of the Desert, a harrowing and intensely moving memoir co-authored with Halima Bashir, a woman refugee from Darfur. It won the Elle Lettres Grande Prix 2008, and won for Halima the prestigious Victor Gollancz Human Rights Award, the International Peace Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award. His other memoirs in this genre include Freedom (the sequel to Slave), Undaunted (with Burmese refugee and activist Zoya Phan), and Homeland, co-authored with George Obama, youngest brother of the US President who lives in the Nairobi slums. His forthcoming co-authored memoir, Forbidden Lessons In The Kabul Guesthouse, tells the incredible true story of Afghan-American aid worker and activist Suraya Sadeed, and is published in the US and world wide in the spring of 2011. He has also “ghosted” a number of similar memoirs.
Prior to becoming an author he spent twenty years reporting from war, disaster and developing world regions for the BBC and other major broadcasters. He is published by numerous publishers worldwide — including in the English language Little Brown, Hodder, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Public Affairs and Harper Collins. His book Slave has being made into feature film by Slate / Potboiler Films, and Tears Of The Desert has been optioned as a movie. Slave has also been produced as a stage play by Feelgood Theatre.
Music Producer and Filmmaker
I am a Health, Safety, Security and Environmental advisor who has worked in the oil exploration business for 32 years. I have played guitar since the age of eight and am involved in the production of music. I am also a documentary camera operator. My most recent work was with Flamenco Musicians in the town of Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia Spain.
When I was eighteen my mum was the victim of vicious hit and run incident which broke every bone on her left side. She suffered from her injuries for the rest of her life, enduring many follow up operations and procedures. But she was full of life and mostly suffered in silence. She passed away in 2001. Last year I met a young lady Doctor called Halima Bashir. Halima too had a very traumatic experience, but went on to survive. Halima made me laugh when my friend Neneh asked her how old she was. I instinctively put my fingers in my ears as, you know, ladies often don’t like us to know. Halima made the sign of 30 with her fingers in the air. I said I didn’t need to know. Halima smiled and asked, "How do you know I am telling the truth?" My mother, when asked her age, would say "Plenty Seven". I returned home from that meeting and began to read her book Tears of the Desert co-written by Halima and Damien Lewis.
I got to know Halima’s mother and drew many similarities between her mother and mine. Before my mother’s accident, but more noticeably after, I was her protector. I wish to make my Mother proud by standing up for women’s rights and especially the mothers and families of Darfur and greater Sudan. It makes me humble to be part of Our Humanity in the Balance.
Houde is frustrated with the lack of action in addressing the world's bigger issues. She speaks English, French and Arabic, which she intends to use when she interfaces with the Janjaweed, rebels and militias. She joined enthusiastically and looks forward to working with everyone and helping in every way she can, saying "I am here, and you can count on me. I fear nothing for the danger; I am a strong woman." and “God gave me all I have so I can help.”
Civil and Social Activist
"When I found Our Humanity in the Balance I realized that the name has many effective goals and ideas for human dignity, therefore I got the desire to participate and be involved. Especially, I am Darfuri but living in Khartoum but that does not make me feel worry and fear. For my people, I do hope I can create awareness about the conflict and atrocity acts happening in Darfur and stop it. I am deeply concerned about what is happening there and I believe that with Our Humanity In the Balance`s message, we can and we will. I will be so glad to join this organization."
Life Long Student of Human Nature
I’m a Scot who recently made New Zealand my home. I am an educationalist and believe the gift of retirement can be the most productive and useful time of our lives. When friends ask me why I am part of this I answer, "When free to do so and fit enough, I'll only be doing what ALL grandparents should consider doing for the sake of ALL our grandchildren." We share the earth and need to spring clean our common home to ensure future generations will have the freedom and peace to fulfill their true potential. Mere mortals who stand together in defiance of violence can actually start a tidal wave of human conscience.
We are morally bound to protect and nurture the miracle of life on Earth. Every faith encourages us to "do as we would be done by." We do not have the right to squander the efforts of those gone before us, and we are responsible for the advancement of new generations. Being involved how best you can is what matters.
This is from a poem by my mother,"...What did I bring on that first danger fraught journey, Shared labour of love from the need to be born? The essence of what is me."
I have had the opportunity to live in many different parts of the world, and this exposure to different cultures and races made me who I am today. For many years I wasted time trying to figure out why we, as humans, have such an easy time hurting one another. Unfortunately I am still searching for an answer, so one day I told myself to not waste time trying to figure out this world, and spend time trying to help it. I have always enjoyed helping in any way I can. I started volunteering at an early age, back in grade eight. I spent three lunch breaks a week with disabled students, working on school work and just getting to know them. I continued this all the way to grade eleven. I also volunteered at homeless shelters as well as food banks, Meals on Wheels and Texas Casa.
But in my heart I always knew I wanted to work in Africa. One of the places I was specially interested in was Congo, where there are many street children, some due to the most unthinkable reasons. My family and I have donated to a lot of different organizations, but I feel I need to do more. And the more I learn about genocide and the displaced victims in Darfur, the more I know I need to get involved. Darfuris have been suffering since 2003, and I still can't believe that after seven years this problem still exists. I know there are many people out there who are trying to make a difference, and that is one thing we cannot stop doing.
Human Rights Activist, Writer and Blogger
I was born in Dallang in the western Nuba Mountains in 1968, just 4 years after Sudan’s first revolution against dictatorship. I lived and studied in Khartoum. When I was 14, a new war started in the Nuba Mountains in 1982-3. Our relatives fled the fighting in Khartoum and many of them stayed with us. They had nothing but the clothes on their bodies; they felt helpless, powerless and unexpected by this new community into which they came. They had to work in very inhuman conditions. They lost their dignity and had their families torn apart, children without mothers and mothers without their children, so many broken dreams and souls.
The slums around Khartoum started to shape itself in that era. War in the Nuba Mountains, war in the South Sudan and drought with famine struck Darfur in the middle eighties. Another Intifada then came. The residents of the slums made up most of the crowd demonstrating. Their unimaginable poverty and inhuman livelihood was their motive. Another government came about yet nothing changed the war. The IDP's camps continued and the slums kept stretching until they started calling it the "Black Belt" surrounding Khartoum. "Black is my skin color" and the skin color of the more than 5 million IDP’S who lived in those shacks.
Wars don’t just kill by weapons. Wars kill human dignity, hopes and futures. Once I was in the Education ministry. It was the university registration period so many students were waiting to be called to receive their high school certificate. The officer called a southern name from one window, another window was calling the same last name. The men called were brothers who had fled south Sudan when they were children. They had never met for years and never knew if the other was alive. Wars separate individuals, families and countries.
Volunteering for Our Humanity in the Balance, is one of my hopes to balance my own humanity with all the suffering and injustice the people of my skin have faced for decades and centuries around the world. We all are going to die one day, but the way we die is the real manifestation of our lives' value. I dedicate the rest of mine to stopping the killing because when those helpless civilians in war zones don’t fear death in their villages, they will stay in their own homes, lands and communities. Living in camps and city slums and working in inhuman conditions with no choice is another death for those who flee from weapons killing them come to face.
The silence of the international community about what is going on in the NM, Blue Nile increases the challenge peace workers, human rights activists, academics, policy makers and philosophers face. They are trying to find new effective mechanisms to change the way we act, while trying to help our brothers in danger; and our own humanity.
Women's Rights Activist
I feel that this will be a good opportunity for me to share with you and the team everything that I had to deal with when I have one to one meetings with women from Sudan who are in the UK as refugees. There are so many things that happened to them that they cannot begin to fathom for they are things that should not happen to any human beings. It is unimaginable, they tell me.
I feel that what our team is embarking on represents the beginning of the end of this saga in Sudan that Darfuri women are victims of.
I have taught about genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda, and tyranny in Indonesia, Burma and other countries, sadly too numerous to list. My experiences in Franco's Spain as a child, post-Mobutu Congo, and today's Dominican Republic have only reinforced the desire to actually do something to effect change beyond the classroom sphere of influence. I am honored to contribute to this action in Sudan.
Computer Network Specialist and Humanitarian Worker
I have started questioning life in a quite early age, finding my parents fired from their jobs because their political views, my friend dropping out of school because they didn’t have enough money, young children force to participate in a war under God’s name, a war that I had to see its horrible consequences every day in the television most of my childhood. Poverty, illiteracy, diseases, wars and much more is eating away people lives in Sudan alongside the suppression dictatorship that deprives people from their simple right: to live in dignity. Surrounded by all that I decided not to be a spectator, what was and still happening in Sudan gave me the determination to become a part of the hard process of transforming my community to a better place to change a cruel reality to a reality where all Sudanese enjoy their full rights.
I started working in a small self-funded organization with motivated young people. What brought us together was that we all - in one way or another - lived through the same difficult situations and each one of us had experienced difficult times in his or her life and we wanted to try and prevent our next generations from having the same difficulties or at least tackle some of our community problems. We believed that it was our responsibility to draw the attention to our problems as well as contributing to the solution. We worked in AIDS/HIV awareness campaign in Khartoum’s suburbs’ schools, with IDPs in refugee camps and with the local communities. I was inspired by those youth’s determination and eager to help other although we didn’t have wealth or power we just had our youth and willingness to give our humble share of relief for our people.
After the smiles I saw in children’s faces, meals and laughs I shared with simple impoverished people and the pain that I felt when I couldn’t help my passion and determination become inexhaustible and with wonderful people like you I am sure that we can bring justice and humanity back to our world.