This is why you should stop and mark International Genocide Awareness Day

Genocide does not stop for coronavirus

Students will remember March-June 2020 as a time when our lives completely changed. We were sent home suddenly in the middle of term, were stuck with our families for months on end, doing nothing except, scrolling on TikTok, playing board games and baking banana bread.

Relationships, work, travel and much more were put on hold as we came together to fight the coronavirus pandemic. We were facing an unprecedented threat that had the potential to impact any one of us at any time.

During this same period genocide was taking place in Myanmar, China, Sudan and several other countries. Genocide has been taking place in Myanmar against Rohingya’s since 2016, in China against the Uyghur’s since 2014 and in Sudan against Darfuri’s since 2003. Unfortunately, for these groups of people and many others, coronavirus has not alleviated their suffering.

As a board member of the Ishami foundation, an organisation that focuses on genocide awareness (specifically to do with the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda), the issue of genocide is very important to me. I have campaigned nationally raising awareness and education about genocide and organised an event in Bristol last year to mark International Genocide Awareness and Prevention Day (December 9th).

Since the start of lockdown, there have been two causes that have caught the attention of the public. Students have been at the forefront of campaigns relating to The Black Lives Matter movement and the suffering of the people in Yemen. My social media feed was flooded with calls to sign a petition, make a small donation, or even a plea to just engage in general education. I highly commend any campaign that intends to increase awareness, education or help a discriminated against group in any positive way.

However, whilst I wholeheartedly support these campaigns, they alone are not enough. The only way in which we, as a human race, will prevent future hate, discrimination and persecution based on identity is through a change of collective and individual attitudes.

Issie Levin a final year English student plans to commemorate International Genocide Awareness day this year by “educating myself and others around me.” She argues “it is so important to combat society’s lack of understanding towards the disasters of the past”.

Until we, as individuals, truly embody the attitude of caring about hate directed at another group of people as much as we care about hate directed at our own group, genocide and general baseless hatred will continue.

International Genocide Awareness and Prevention Day will take place this year on December 9th. Due to the pandemic, an in-person event is impossible to organise, but myself and others are using digital mediums to educate about genocide. I have started a podcast with my friend Adam Grossman called ‘The Good Neighbour’ which will be released on December 9th. As part of this podcast we will be having conversations with a diverse range of guests about issues related to baseless hatred. We do not approach these conversations as so called “experts” but as people who believe that having the discussion is valuable.

Fighting our own prejudices is an ongoing battle. Whether it is educating ourselves in order to dispel misinformation and stereotypes, ensuring that we get our news and information from as diverse an array of sources as possible and understanding and questioning our own biases, we must make a constant effort to educate ourselves about genocide.

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