“Taking A Stand: Youth Against Genocide” was a statewide conference for high school students held recently in Denver and sponsored by the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action. I again led a workshop on Congress and the media and was heartened by the students. But this year’s conference topic, Sudan, gave my workshop specific focus and produced a bona fide strategy.
Last summer by referendum, the Republic of South Sudan split off from Sudan. Instability is now reported in the border areas of Darfur, Blue Nile, South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains. Stories of genocide precursors like blocked food shipments, unruly militias and a complacent Sudanese regime are emerging.
The official U.S. position calls for supporting Sudan through a new $250 million debt relief program and continued multi-lateral mediation to maintain stability in this Sub-Sahara region. But the Administration is facing pressure from members of Congress and the Sudanese community in exile to do more.
I showed students how to add to that pressure, armed only with their laptops.
The Denver Post ran a story about the conference, Sudan and the local Sudanese activists in exile. Send that news link, I told them, to members of the Colorado congressional delegation. Ask them to pay attention to Sudan and re-send the link to the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, where U.S.-Sudan policy is under review. Also send the link to the House Sudan Caucus, an informal, bi-partisan group of representatives active in the issue. Use the story to increase electronic traffic into Congress.
I also told them to send the link to New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, who has taken great interest in Sudan, and let him know the youth in Colorado care. Chances are that will get his op-ed attention. They should thank the Post reporter who filed the story. She will be inclined to write future stories. And send the link to www.actforSudan.org, a global advocacy non-governmental organization, to bolster that effort.
I encouraged them to send the link to their Facebook friends and post it to their Twitter accounts to start an awareness campaign. I suggested they learn how to use existing e-petition tools to be able to mobilize them when the time and the call to action are right.
The first anniversary of Sudanese separation is coming, a good time for congressional policy review. And the president will need Congress to approve his new aid package. I suggested mounting a call for congressional hearings to evaluate the package now one year after his policy has been in place. Allow the president to see his aid package become law only on the condition that he does more to insure civilians have access to food and protection from renegade militia. That’s a simple, effective message
This is heady stuff for high schoolers. But they realized that organizing rallies and printing press releases are no longer as effective as a laptop-based campaign waged from their classrooms or homes. By knowing the players and passing links, tweets and e-mails between advocates, media and legislators, one can now truly make a difference.