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Playing with Fire: Celebration, Destruction, and Survival
On August 8, 2008, at 8:08 a.m. (CST), the world will watch the most spectacular Olympics opening ceremony ever orchestrated. The Olympic torch will reach its final destination, and for the first time in history, fireworks will form the image of the Olympic rings in the sky. As we gaze on in wonder, we will see the power and beauty of fire.
But for many others in the world, fire has a very different meaning.
Twelve-year-old Hadija has lived in a camp in south Darfur, with her mother and six brothers and sisters since her village was set ablaze by Janjaweed militia. The Janjaweed, backed by the Sudanese government, have waged a "scorched-earth campaign" against the people of Darfur, clearing the region of millions of Darfurians, many of whom now live in temporary camps in Darfur and Chad.
To ensure that her family has enough money to buy food, Hadija must leave her camp each day to collect firewood, which she sells or trades at the market.
But for women and girls in Darfur, fire and the need for firewood is a source of both destruction and survival.
Because there are too few peacekeepers to protect her, when Hadija leaves her camp, she risks being captured, raped, and beaten by militiamen.
As we watch the opening ceremony in Beijing, who will be watching to make sure Hadija arrives home safely? Who will be putting out the fires of scorched villages?
While television might not bring the heroic struggles of Darfurian women and girls to your living room, their spirit, as they overcome all odds, truly deserves our attention.