"Genocide results from thinking that my world would be better without you—without you and your kind."
That's what Carl Wilkens, one of the few Americans to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, recently told high school, middle school and college members of the student anti-genocide coalition STAND.
Wilkens' speech touched upon his experiences in Rwanda, where nearly a million people, mostly Tutsis, were killed in a civil war with the Hutus.
A national grassroots organization, STAND (www.standnow.org) gathered at UNC-Chapel Hill last weekend to learn more about genocide throughout the world, as well as how best to raise the issue in the political arena.
STAND's current efforts focus on the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The conflict in Darfur has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of others, and marks the first instance of genocide in the 21st century, according to the Genocide Intervention Network.
However, considering the mass killings in such places as Kosovo, Rwanda and East Timor, STAND is looking at genocide from a global viewpoint.
"Instead of being a Darfur conference, it was an anti-genocide conference," said Ashley Kroetsch, STAND's national outreach coordinator for colleges. "We really broadened the scope this year."
Two pivotal events this year are prompting STAND to raise political awareness about genocide: The 2008 presidential race and the summer Olympics in Beijing. STAND is encouraging its members to take steps to make Darfur a matter of concern for the political elite.
STAND associate Janessa Goldbeck said United Nations resolutions and international laws have failed to curb genocide. "Just passing legislation isn't enough," she said. "It must be enforced."
Swathi Sekar, the event's co-coordinator and member of the STAND chapter at UNC, said organizers were pleased with the conference. "I think it really gave a lot of people a platform to start whatever they were planning back home."