NI: Belfast Amnesty joins protests in more than 40 countries demanding protection for the people of Darfur

A multi-faith vigil was held for the people of Darfur on the steps of St Anne's Cathedral on Sunday 10th December.

The Amnesty International-organised vigil enabled people in Belfast to join thousands across the world, who marked UN Human Rights Day by taking part in a Global Day of Action. Prayers were lead by Dean Houston McKelvey of St Anne's Cathedral and Dr Hugh Kennedy of St Peter's Cathedral and speeches were given by representatives of various development organisations which work in Sudan and by Carmel Hanna MLA, Chair of the Assembly all-party group on international development.

A large banner was displayed on the steps of the cathedral with the message: Protect the People of Darfur, UN Peacekeepers Now.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Programme Director said:

'It is clear that horrific human rights abuses are being committed daily in Darfur, and the international community has been slow to act to stop this genocide. To get some perspective, imagine if every man, woman and child living in Belfast was butchered to death, that's exactly what is happening in Darfur in Sudan, where 300,000 people - equivalent to the population of Belfast - have lost their lives in the last three years.'

'Amnesty is calling for the Sudanese government to protect the people of Darfur and for Arab and African governments to pressure them to accept a UN peacekeeping force. By taking action the people of Northern Ireland can help stop these atrocities.'

The situation in Darfur in Sudan has been desperate for more than three years and recently, conditions have deteriorated even further. Since the conflict began in 2003, more than 300 000 people have lost their lives and more than 2 million have been displaced from their homes and are living in camps. Camps which are dangerous, insecure and at risk of attack.

The central Sudanese Government instead of acting to protect the people of Darfur attacks their villages and has armed a local militia known as the 'Janjawid' to fight the war on their behalf.

Humanitarian aid groups have found it near impossible to operate, although more than 3 million people depend on them for survival.

Amnesty International is calling on the people of Northern Ireland to take action at www.amnesty.org.uk/crisis

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