As students, we earn the reputation for being the most politically motivated group within society. However, when it comes down to it, how aware are we of one of the most monumental injustices taking place in the world? Today, there are eight on-going areas of genocidal conflict and massacre throughout the globe; yet the action taken by international governments leaves many students disillusioned. How deep does this apathy run in St Andrews?
The student body may vocally support human rights, yet they are more inclined to study the cause and effect of genocide than campaign for its prevention. The horrifying statistics are too impersonal and easy to overlook, but the deaths of over 200,000 people since 2003 in Sudan should not be viewed purely as a case study but as an incentive to get involved and prevent further tragedy. Bennett Collins, leader of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) St Andrews, says that “to fully combat genocide the situation needs to be dealt with before it can arise”, which is only possible through a combination of awareness and action on the part of the international community. In this light, it is disheartening that British and American governments can be seen to prioritise domestic interests over foreign affairs; when questioned, Barack Obama stated that one of his prime concerns was the lack of action against the crisis in Sudan.
However, to this date, he has only appointed J. Scott Gration as a special envoy for Sudan and no further direct action has been undertaken. STAND wants to remedy this; encouraging members to use their political power to make international leaders liable for their perceived passiveness towards crimes of humanity.
The organisation works specifically to prevent and counter the effects of genocide. Since its creation in 2004, it has expanded across the international community to create a united front against genocide in all areas of the world. In 2009, Bennett Collins founded the first chapter of STAND in the UK. Bennett’s intention is “to motivate the students of St Andrews to take action against genocide.”
The society has three main functions: raising awareness, fundraising and activism; all with the intention of creating a political will against genocide to persuade leaders to take action and to hold governments accountable for their inaction. Through the use of speakers, documentaries and campaigning the St Andrews branch of STAND seeks to burst the ‘bubble’ and challenge the apathy many students demonstrate to current affairs.
‘Will you help us STAND?’- The latest campaign to emerge from the society promotes the creation of a united civilisation against genocide and encourages members to inform their peers of the situation by actively inspiring them to participate.
It is up to the international community to protect civilians from genocidal violence but this is unachievable if the population remains apathetic to the various conflicts destroying swathes of communities.
STAND demonstrated at the Freshers’ Fayre how campaigning can appeal to the modern generation through the use of a ‘flash mob’. This method exemplified how the involvement of one person alone can make a difference, as they join together with other like-minded individuals, helping to spread awareness of genocide and promote action within the international community.
From this, it is obvious that many students in St Andrews are concerned about their fellow man. However, can the student body join together worldwide to create a society that actively works to prevent genocidal conflicts or do we remain half- hearted in our attempts preferring to use the impersonal statistics as a laboratory-style case study?
Will your conscience allow you to remain indifferent to genocide or are you prepared to take your own STAND?