8-year-old stands up to genocide

Last Sunday hundreds of students gathered at Northrop Auditorium, donning black caps and gowns, to celebrate their monumental achievement: graduation. After walking the stage and collecting our diplomas, it became clear that we were not simply joining the rest of the tax-paying population, but also that we are now responsible to control our own future âÄî and that of our world. I thought it would be appropriate for my last column of the semester to let someone else speak âÄî someone who has consistently been the voice of those who lost theirs. Ellen Kennedy has worked tirelessly as the interim director for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies to motivate young citizens to become involved in human rights advocacy. The following are her personal stories of how young people, just like us, have made amazing strides against international injustices. Take these stories and be inspired. Make a call. Change the world for the better. Eight-year-old Freya Slocumb first heard about the genocide in Darfur while listening to University alumnus Luke Walker give a homily during Mass at their Minneapolis church. Sitting in a pew with her mother, she listened to Walker speak about what was happening in the Darfur region of Sudan , the first genocide of the 21st century where approximately 400,000 innocent people had been murdered. Turning to her mother, Freya said: âÄúMom, this isnâÄôt right. We have to do something.âÄù And she did. Freya decided to make jewelry called âÄúsacrifice beadsâÄù to sell as a fundraiser, and so far this little 8-year-old girl has raised almost $600 to be donated to the Genocide Intervention Network. In her Dec. 3 blog entry, Freya wrote, âÄúMy mom told me that Obama picked someone for the U.N. who is very against genocide. Her name is Susan Rice . She wants the situation in Darfur to end, just like I do, and sheâÄôll be someone Obama will listen to. âĦ I am so excited that maybe the end of this will be soon.âÄù Emma Weisberg, 16, is a junior at Edina High School . She organized a citywide showing last year of âÄúThe Devil Came on Horseback ,âÄù a documentary about the Darfur genocide, that more than 350 people attended. This year, Emma and her friends arranged for Dr. Ashis Brahma âÄî the only doctor caring for 27,000 Darfuris in a refugee camp in Chad âÄî to speak in Edina in February. Anna Donnelly , 22, graduated from the University last Sunday, writing her honors thesis about human rights atrocities. She often speaks to high school classes, church groups, and civic organizations about genocide, as well as organizes fundraisers and lobbies her elected officials to prevent genocide. Two weeks ago she worked with the City Council of Hopkins, Minn., to divest the cityâÄôs portfolio from companies that are complicit with SudanâÄôs genocidal government. And this spring sheâÄôll be a University Human Rights fellow, developing educational resources about Darfur for Minnesota teachers. Mark Hanis, 26, is the founder and executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network in Washington, D.C. Supervising a staff of 20 people and overseeing STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition , Hanis has empowered thousands of people to take action against the genocide in Darfur. An 8-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 22-year-old and a 26-year-old; ordinary people yet extraordinary. TheyâÄôre all standing up to make a difference. Young people have gotten engaged around the issue of genocide prevention in unprecedented ways. The question is: Why do young people care? Many people have never even heard of Sudan or Darfur, or thought about the nightmare of genocide. But there are important reasons why every single one of us should âÄî indeed, must âÄî care. The Torah, the Bible and the Quran all exhort us not to stand by when the blood of our neighbor is spilled. Freya wrote on her blog, âÄúI am one person. I may never have the chance to do great things. I can only offer to God the things I can do.âÄù Impunity allows evil to flourish. Adolf Hitler said to his generals, before sending death squads into Poland, âÄúGo, kill without mercy âĦ Who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?âÄù The United States has signed and ratified the Genocide Convention . It was passed in the United Nations 60 years ago, and itâÄôs been the law of our land for 20 years. We have a legal responsibility to prevent and stop genocide. Genocide breeds insecurity in the region, the continent and the world. Genocide is a threat to our national security, according to The Genocide Prevention Task Force. When we see an accident, we call 911. When we know about genocide we should call the anti-genocide hotline, 1-800-GENOCIDE, which automatically connects all Americans to their representatives, senators and the White House. Freya, 8, is doing all she can. LetâÄôs help Freya âÄî and help all the innocent people in Darfur who are targeted in the first genocide of the 21 century. Ellen J. Kennedy , Interim Director Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Kathryn Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]