By Hannah Finnie, Advocacy Training Coordinator. Originally posted at the Emory University Center for Ethics. Cross-posted with permission from the author.
Hannah & Phillips Academy STAND in Washington, DC for the Summit
Earlier this month, I was honored to attend the End Genocide Action Summit in Washington, D.C. as the Advocacy Training Coordinator for STAND, a student-led anti-genocide organization. The End Genocide Action Summit was the inaugural conference of United to End Genocide, and judging by its success, the conference will be the first of many to come. United to End Genocide is a new and flourishing organization that came to fruition upon the merger of the Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network. STAND, which is the student-led division of United to End Genocide and boasts over 600 chapters worldwide, focuses not only on the wide array of current genocides, but also on genocide prevention.
My involvement with STAND formally began in 2008, when I learnt of the chapter at my high school and joined. However, the mission and importance of STAND has been ingrained within me ever since seventh grade, when I decided to interview my Grandma for a history project. While I was aware that the many of my extended maternal relatives were holocaust survivors, I never really knew their stories and struggles. Interviewing my own Grandmother on such a sensitive subject matter was difficult, to say the least. Then, in my very last question, I asked my Grandma if she forgave the Nazis, the perpetrators of the atrocities she had suffered through for years on end and that continued to haunt her for years to come. Expecting her to immediately dismiss my question, I was astounded when my Grandma answered with a strong and definitive “yes.”
My Grandmother’s innate strength to forgive the perpetrators of such heinous crimes serves as daily inspiration and is enough to convince me that, as a human race, we can come together to permanently end genocide. With that one interview, the spark within me had been ignited.
Thus, when I stumbled across STAND a few years later, joining the organization was an easy and natural step. In high school, I dedicated much of my time and energy to STAND, bringing speakers to campus, organizing various fundraisers, and raising awareness of genocide on campus. Furthermore, when the opportunity to become more involved in STAND arose near the end of my high school career, I eagerly jumped at the chance. Today, as Advocacy Training Coordinator for the national STAND organization, I help coordinate and execute STAND’s many advocacy efforts.
So, what about this conference? In short, it was inspiring. Meeting with activists around the world that share my passion for genocide prevention only built upon my own passion for the cause. Instead of my typical college weekend catching up on sleep, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning discussing the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma. Instead of learning about advocacy in my political science class, I witnessed the true meaning of advocacy when STAND constituents met with over one third of the Senate on a single day to make their voices heard. Instead of learning about past genocides and the words of “Never again,” I learned about what anti-genocide activists are doing right now to make those words a reality.
Thus, I am forever grateful for the enduring and inspiring efforts of STAND in the crucial, and often frustrating, fight against genocide. Furthermore, I am indebted to the members of STAND, students from across the globe, who continually reignite the spark within me to carry on my own anti-genocide efforts as a student at Emory University. In the upcoming weeks and months, I hope to revitalize Emory University’s commitment to building a better world by introducing the Conflict Free Campus Initiative.
If you have any questions or comments about my experiences with STAND, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.