People to People
I attended a rally in New York City Saturday, Oct. 7, at which Sierra Leoneans demonstrated against the atrocities being committed in their country because of a long-standing struggle over who will control the nation's rich diamond resources. These sufferers brought their message to the U.S. because Americans buy the lion's share of the world's diamonds.
On my way to the rally, which began in front of the Plaza Hotel, I stopped in the restroom at the world-famous hotel. Four little girls were trying to wash their hands; two of the girls each had only one hand. The other two girls, each missing a leg, were hobbling on crutches trying to help the others wash their remaining hands. They were all giggling, as little kids will when presented with an absurd situation.
As I stepped forward to help them, I froze, suddenly realizing I was looking at some of the participants in the demonstration I was about to attend. Just then, their guardian appeared and hurried them through their ablutions.
Just a bunch of little girls giggling in a bathroom on a sunny Saturday morning. Just a jaded jewelry industry journalist who caught the train to New York City to witness a demonstration that could have profound affect on her readers. But suddenly, the political became personal.
I know. It's not the fault of any of us in the United States who earn our living directly or indirectly through the sale of diamonds (including me). Because of almost non-existent reporting on African affairs, many Americans didn't even know Sierra Leone was having a civil war before last year. But we owe it to the men, women and children who have lost limbs and lives in the crossfire of this horrible conflict to do all we can now to stop it from continuing.
I'm proud of the role the diamond and jewelry industry is playing to put an end to it as quickly as possible. The update that appears in our Diamond/ News section (pp. 19-20) will fill you in on the highlights; for more details, check our Conflict Diamond Archive at www.professionaljeweler.com.
Your role as jewelers is clear: demand conflict-free diamonds and insist that your suppliers pressure the world's governments get the industry-led certification plan in place as quickly as possible. And as I said in my July 2000 editorial, I urge you to contribute what you can to repairing the damage to Sierra Leone's families. Among many organizations helping these desperate people is World Hope International, P.O. Box 2815, Springfield, VA 22152. Indicate that your donation is for Sierra Leone, the Hope for Children or Limbs of Hope projects. Do it not because you're guilty, but because you care about the future of a nation that has given the world diamonds and paid an awful price.
Peggy Jo Donahue