Local view: Work against genocide in our time
April was designated Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month. Across the country and abroad, children, students, professionals and activists banded together in different-sized groups to mark the anniversaries of several genocides, including the 9...
April was designated Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month. Across the country and abroad, children, students, professionals and activists banded together in different-sized groups to mark the anniversaries of several genocides, including the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the 66th anniversary of the Holocaust, the 34th anniversary of the Cambodian Genocide, the 17th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide and, finally, the sixth anniversary of the genesis of the violence in Darfur.
Locally, the Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Events at the University of Minnesota Duluth offered a week of activities that included the movie, "Camp Darfur," a brownbag. The keynote speaker was Ellen Kennedy, a professor and the interim director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She provided a multimedia presentation on the situation of Lithuanian Jewry before and after World War II. Dr. Kennedy's presentation highlighted how the Nazis exterminated a wonderfully rich and vibrant Jewish community in Vilna. She also spoke about the broader legacy of the Holocaust: the cry that rang out from the international community that "never again" would genocide be allowed to occur.
The international community, however, has failed to act in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and now Darfur. According to Professor Kennedy, we must work to change this. She spoke of the need to change people from being passive bystanders to active "upstanders," people who use their freedoms to speak for those who are threatened with genocide.
The hope for Darfur and other regions riddled with violence rests with us here. We represent one part of what can be a dynamic, sustainable, anti-genocide constituency. Elected officials respond to the demands of their constituency groups. We need to make our elected officials aware that we are concerned about genocide and mass atrocities around the world and that we expect them to act.
For too long we have abandoned the victims and survivors of genocide, and we need to ensure our words have meaning. We should not forget the lessons of the Holocaust. We should honor the memories of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust by ensuring it will never happen again. We need to educate ourselves about the various genocides and mass atrocities, organize ourselves to become effective advocates for those who have no voice and attempt to influence politicians.
Elie Wiesel, perhaps the most prominent Holocaust scholar and survivor, has noted: "The opposite of love is not hate; it's indifference." Earlier this year, I was honored to be accepted as a Carl Wilkens Fellow with Genocide Intervention Network
(genocideintervention.net), a nongovernmental organization that "empowers individuals and communities with the tools to prevent and stop genocide." As part of my fellowship, I want to start a local community organization to fight inaction when it comes to genocide and mass atrocities across the world. I ask everyone to join me to target and to reverse indifference.
Please consider participating in a local constituency-building effort within the greater Duluth-Superior community -- within our community.
Haji Dokhanchi of Superior has taught political science since 1992 at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. For the past seven years he also has co-taught courses on the genocide in Bosnia and has served as co-facilitator of a War and Peace in Bosnia study-abroad program.