The world's most popular children's authors – including J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, R.L. Stine, and Louis Sachar – published an open letter Saturday demanding the world "wake up" to the crisis that Darfurian children endure due to the conflict in Sudan.
More than a dozen children's authors from North America, Africa, Europe and the Arab world united on the eve of Global Day for Darfur to demand action from the international community on behalf of voiceless and powerless children.
"Children barely old enough to walk, let alone run, have seen their homes burnt and razed to the ground, their mothers raped and their fathers killed," read the letter signed by the 14 prominent authors. "Most are now holed up in sprawling camps, traumatized and living in fear.
"Children in Darfur draw pictures of bombs and guns. It is all they have ever known," the letter continued. "Childhood is under attack in Darfur."
Over two million Darfurians have been forced to flee their homes and villages due to violence, most seeking shelter and protection in refugee camps. Moreover, an estimated 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since 2003.
The Arab-dominated Khartoum government is accused of backing Arab militias called janjaweed in attacks against ethnic African rebels, who rose up against the government complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination.
"It is time to change the narrative. It is time to tell a different story," the authors urged. "This April many children in Darfur will be reaching their fifth birthdays without ever having known peace. The world needs to wake up. For too long it has let these children suffer. Our politicians need to act on Darfur."
Political leaders were urged to demand immediate ceasefire, fully support the peacekeepers, and punish those that try to block deployment of peacekeeping troops.
"They must also do more to support a peace process based on justice and human rights, so there can be hope of an end to the suffering," the letter read.
The letter was released the day before Global Day for Darfur on Sunday, a day of events aimed at raising awareness of the suffering in western Sudan. In particular this year, thousands of people in over 30 countries marked five years of war in Darfur by highlighting the more than one million Sudanese children who have been caught up in the region's bloodshed.
Protests worldwide marked five years of fighting in Darfur, including media advertisements featuring celebrities such as actors Matt Damon and Thandie Newton highlighting the suffering of Darfurian children.
In the United States, a group of 18 student protestors were arrested Sunday during a demonstration in front of the White House to call President Bush to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, according to CNN.
Protesters shouted, "Hey Bush, you can't hide! Help us end this genocide!" and "President Bush! No more excuses!"
Earlier this year, Bush – who was the first world leader to label the Darfur violence a genocide – urged all nations to step up effort to end "once and for all" the ethnic slaughter. However, actual progress in Darfur has remained unchanged if not worse, causing frustration among activists.
In recent years, Darfur activists have found an outspoken ally among evangelical Christians in the fight to end the genocide. Christian conservative leaders are breaking away from the stereotype of only caring about abortion and homosexuality, by voicing concerns on social issues such as human rights violations, creation care, and poverty.
Last December, the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was one of the Darfur-Olympic torchbearers during its run in Washington D.C. He joined human rights activists, Darfurians, students and other faith leaders in the international relay to pressure Olympic host China to do more to end the violence in Darfur. China is Sudan's biggest arms supplier as well as its biggest oil client.
"The children of Darfur didn't ask for this war, but are living their days caught in the crossfire of reverberating bullets," the letter closed. "They must be allowed to be children again. Despite the daily terror they face, they still have hopes and dreams. The world needs to act now to give the children of Darfur a future."
The list of signatories includes some of the most well-known names in children's literature. They include J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series; Tracey West who has written 30 best-selling books in the Pokemon series; Cornelia Funke a multiple award-winning German author best known for her Inkworld trilogy; and Judy Blume who has sold over 65 million copies of her children's books.