March 25, 2005
An Easter Message to the Minnesota Press
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
MN -- "For Christians, it is called Holy Week, the
one we're passing through," a somber and penetrating
editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune begins today. "It's
supposed to be about death and this year, especially, it
The editorial asks how we can use death itself to seek a larger purpose
in life, and thus to avoid for our loved ones, our fellow citizens, and
for ourselves the disconsolate and tragic end to life that is so common
in this world.
In the spirit of this editorial, I would like to add one more dimension
to this search we Minnesotans undertake this Easter. I address these
thoughts specifically to my friends and colleagues in the Minnesota press.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch,
the world's largest human rights organization, released a report accusing
the government of Ethiopia of "widespread
murder, rape, and torture" against the country's minority Anuak
The report says that the Ethiopian
government's "targeted" campaign
of violence against the Anuak "bears the hallmark of crimes against
humanity under international law," and that murder, rape, and torture
is "ongoing and frequent."
The world is full of misery and mass murder. Why should the Minnesotan
press pay special attention to this one?
Because for the past decade, the ethnic cleansing of the Anuak from
Ethiopia has resulted in more than 1,000 Anuak refugees fleeing for safety
to our state, which is now home to the largest diaspora settlement of
this tribe in the world.
With only 100,000 remaining members, the entire Anuak tribe with its
unique culture and language is under immediate threat of extinction as
a result of ethnic cleansing, according to the Cambridge, Mass.-based
rights group, Cultural Survival.
What role might we in the Minnesota press play in trying to stop the
violence against the Anuak tribe by genocide?
If we clearly see that we are able to play such a role by exercising
the freedoms that we enjoy but that the Ethiopian press does not, would
we then not only have an opportunity but also a responsibility to help
end the genocide of the Anuak?
There is not only a free press argument, and a humanitarian argument,
but also a self-interest argument for extending a hand of help to the
The Minnesota Anuak live in the Twin Cities primarily but also in Mankato,
Austin, Worthington, Rochester, and other towns where they work in food
processing plants, at megastores as shelvers, and are taking higher education
For the past year, life has been hell for the Anuak of Minnesota who
all have lost family members and close friends to gruesome murders. Parents,
children, and siblings have been murdered; mothers, wives, and sisters
have been raped. In many cases loved ones have dropped out of sight with
no word about their fate.
Rags and Tatters
Since December 13, 2003, when approximately 425 Anuak were massacred
on a single day by the Ethiopian army, more than 50,000 Anuak in Ethiopia
have been made homeless as they fled the carnage into the malaria-infested
bush and to a refugee camp in southern Sudan.
Many Anuak in Minnesota have quit their schooling and risked losing
their jobs to spend their life savings to fly to Africa, to discover
the fate of their loved ones.
Some Anuak have flown back to Africa only to find their parents, brothers
and sisters all killed. In other cases there is simply no trace of them.
In the luckiest cases, the Minnesota Anuak find their loved ones living
in rags and tatters in refugee camps in the Sudan desert or in Nairobi
The impact on Minnesota of the Anuak genocide can thus be measured in
many ways -- economic, social, cultural, spiritual.
Educations ended and jobs lost is an obvious economic loss. Time and
money spent searching for loved ones in Africa also translates into more
domestic crises in Minnesota as rents go unpaid, marriages fray, children
get in trouble, and dependence on social services is extended.
Freedom of the Press
Many Anuak in Minnesota, feeling utterly helpless, are suffering depression
in silence or need grief counseling to survive every day.
Thanks to the Human Rights Watch Report, the Anuak genocide is now virtually
undisputed. Though the numbers of dead and missing are smaller, the genocide
of the Anuak tribe is now a fact as solid as the genocides of Rwanda
As potential first-responders, the Minnesota press has the opportunity
to demonstrate how the free press in a democracy can safeguard and extend
precious freedoms across national and geographic borders, throughout
Our meditation on death this Easter would be fruitful, I believe, if
we in the Minnesota press decided to extend the powers and blessings
we enjoy to the Anuak.
Copyright @ 2005 The McGill