In an age of division, we are inundated daily with political acrimony. To make their case to the American people, presidential candidates emphasize their differences, underscore their divisions, and reinforce their disagreements.
But yesterday -- for once, in what sometimes seems like an everlasting campaign -- our candidates for President of the United States agreed: genocide in Darfur must end.
Not only do they agree on the matter, but they also signed their names to the same piece of paper: a strongly worded statement about their joint commitment to end the genocide. There will be no question whether Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain or Barack Obama will be ready to act on Darfur on Day 1.
"We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end," the statement says. It's a historic endeavor -- possibly the first time since World War II that a foreign policy issue has garnered a united response from presidential candidates.
When it comes to the campaign of destruction against the civilian population in Darfur orchestrated by its own government, there is no disagreement. Sudan must stop. It's about time.
When a Darfur rebel group attacked the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this month, the central government's response was heavy-handed. Reports indicate widespread detentions and disappearance, summary executions, crackdown on Darfuri journalists and lawyers, and the looting of Darfur homes and business in and around Khartoum. A college student in Sudan was recently shot on the spot because security forces said his hair and skin color resembled those of the Darfur rebels.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir essentially promised a new round of brutal violence in Darfur following the attack. Now the presidential candidates have made Khartoum a promise of their own.
"...We wish to make clear to the Sudanese government that on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us," the statement says. "If peace and security for the people of Sudan are not in place when one of us is inaugurated as President on January 20, 2009, we pledge that the next Administration will pursue these goals with unstinting resolve."
And we -- the constituency of conscience concerned about Darfur -- have a promise for the candidates: we will not let up. We will hold you to your word. We will agitate until peace reigns in Sudan.
There is an anti-genocide voting bloc in this country. We're not defined by race, party, religion or gender. But we're there, and we're vocal. We've shown up to rallies in our orange "I Vote for Darfur" t-shirts. We've signed petitions. We've asked questions at debates and rallies. And the presidential candidates heard us.
We believe that the people of Darfur deserve to live. That they want and deserve to go home. That violence must end. That humanitarian aid and long-term sustainable development must come to Darfur. And that the perpetrators of genocide must be held accountable.
Sens. Clinton, McCain and Obama must act on their promise. We will vote our conscience.
Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D. is chairwoman of the Save Darfur Coalition
About the Save Darfur Coalition: The Save Darfur Coalition -- an alliance of more than 180 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations -- raises public awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and mobilizes a unified response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of people throughout the Darfur region. The coalition's member organizations represent 130 million people of all ages, races, religions and political affiliations united together to help the people of Darfur. For more information on the coalition, please visit www.SaveDarfur.org. To obtain footage from the Darfur border region, coalition events, various interviews, and more, please visit the Save Darfur Coalition media gallery at http://media.savedarfur.org. All footage may be previewed in non-broadcast quality and may be purchased in broadcast quality by filling out the purchase request form provided on the site..