Last fall the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened a new exhibit that has received too little attention. The exhibit documents the 17-year war of ethnic cleansing in Sudan. The events of this ongoing struggle between the forces of Islamization and Arabization against the native Christian and animist peoples of Sudan's south have been highlighted in a number of important media during the past few years. (See, for example, CT's cover story of Aug. 9, 1999, on slave redemption in Sudan, or the Sudan resources compiled at www.ushmm.org/conscience/sudan.htm)

But this exhibit stands out because it is the museum's first ever devoted to contemporary genocide outside Western Europe. And it is the first example of something that was envisioned from the founding of the museum. When President Jimmy Carter's Commission on the Holocaust recommended the founding of the museum, it also recommended creating a Committee of Conscience to "alert the national conscience. … and work to halt acts of genocide."

These first steps in the committee's efforts to carry out this mandate are welcome, though the survivors of ethnic cleansings in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia might well wonder at the committee's slow pace and its failure to act earlier and speak out more broadly. These efforts may serve as a model for the maturing of victimhood.

Jews are not the only people with a story of victimization. African Americans can tell their own story. As can Russians. And Armenians. And Native Americans. And Tibetans, too. Such groups are faced with the tasks of carefully documenting their history, a history of cultures erased, a history of heroes and villains, a history of liberation and reclaimed heritages.

These historical tasks are both for their ...

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