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The Overlap

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.

The Janjaweed militia kill for several reasons, but ultimately, they work for the same reasons most of us work: survival. Without work, most of us have no money, which we use to by the necessities of life, such as shelter, food, clothing and other basic needs. Part of Janjaweed payment, however, is the loot they get from raiding a village. When they enter a certain part of Darfur and raze the community, the animals, food, and other items they glean from the abandoned tents become theirs to barter with or sell at their leisure.

Of course, part of the reason they kill and rape (as opposed to just stealing) has to do with a lack of education regarding their fellow countrypersons. Believing propaganda from the government, these marauders feel that Darfurians are less than human at worst, and simply inferior at best. Thus, it is easy to kill someone when you feel as if they do not deserve to live. Their misunderstanding of their shared commonality contributes to the continuation of the genocide. Therefore, by addressing the shared humanity between the perpetrators and the victims, we can hope to build a bridge toward the cessation of the killing.

By categorizing the traits of their specific human condition, both the Janjaweed and the citizens of Dafur all have a need for the following:

  • Survival
  • Land
  • Governance
  • Race

When we examine these for each, we get what seems like two very different pictures:

  • The Darfurians stay in camps, flee the militia attacks, and live in refugee camps for this reason
  • The Janjaweed kill, attack and destroy for this reason, as it is how they earn income and what they believe


  • The Darfurians live in Western and Southern Sudan
  • The Janjaweed live in Eastern and Northern Sudan


  • The Darfurians want a fair representation and an equal say in those who govern them
  • The Janjaweed obey the commands of a dictator/president


  • The Darfurians are dark skinned Africans
  • The Janjaweed are light skinned Africans

There are shared commonalities in each of these. The shared qualities of each categories are greatest with the need for survival, and then the overlap decreases as we work our way down to race. But, where there is overlap, there is a message.

Similarly, below the surface are categories which also provide the overlap needed to send a message upon which community building can begin:

  • The Darfurians are dark skinned Africans
  • The Janjaweed are light skinned Africans


  • The Darfurians are African Muslims and Christians
  • The Janjaweed are Arab Muslims


  • The Darfurians are people in the midst of the human condition
  • The Janjaweed are people in the midst of the human condition


  • The Darfurians experience victimization at the hands of the Janjaweed
  • The Janjaweed experience victimization at the hands of Khartoum

As you can see, below the surface, the commonalities are much easier to find. Beginning with an appeal to the shared humanity and suffering each group has will lead towards an acknowledgement of that which is in common above the surface, such as the origin of their races, their shared hope for Sudan and Africa, their need for representative government, and their universal quest for survival.

Below the surface, commonality is greatest at the bottom, in terms of suffering and decreases as we move towards race again. Imagine two hourglasses for each group, where 'survival' is at the top and 'suffering' at the bottom. In the middle, where the sand exits the top, there is a line, which will serve as 'the surface.' When we push each group's hourglass towards one another, the top and bottom overlap simultaneously and so fourth until both hourglasses are juxtaposed, one on top of the other. The more they are pushed closer, the more the groups share, and the deeper the message can get.

Therefore, the initial message has to stress the shared need for survival based on the human condition of suffering. When the Janjaweed recognize this basic right of the Darfurians, and the fact that this need is shared, new dreams can emerge wherein the two work together to ensure the survival of the other. In my wildest dreams, the Janjaweed protect a village in exchange for food and clothing. Living together, the group bridge the other gaps (even race) until the community thrives on trust built from shared needs.

There's your message. Now we have to figure out how to get it there.

OtherSam Davidson1 Comment