John Prendergast, Human-Rights Activist, Explains Why We Must Make Our Voices Heard for Darfur

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

At 7:30p.m. last night, John Prendergast, human-rights activist and author of the book “Not On Our Watch,” spoke to Elon University, N.C. students about the genocide in Darfur and what steps students can take to ensure it remains in the spotlight until it is ended. Prendergast started his speech with some startling facts: According to the International Crisis Group, 300,000 have been killed during the Darfur genocide, and 2 million have been displaced.

John Prendergast speaks to students about the importance of raising their voices to stop the genocide in Darfur.

John Prendergast speaks to students about the importance of raising their voices to stop the genocide in Darfur.

Bringing a name and a face to the genocide in Darfur, Prendergast related the story of Amina, a young woman from a village in Darfur. He told of how she was awoken in the morning by the sounds of explosions in her village, and raced outside in time to hear the sounds of approaching horses, meaning that the militia, nicknamed the Janjaweed, or “devils on horseback,” were on their way.

Amina only had time to grab a few supplies and her children before she had to race for safety in the nearby hills. Prendergast said that as she was on her way, militiamen stopped her twice, killing two of her children. Amina made it to safety with her two remaining children, and Prendergast met her while she was waiting to gain entry to a refugee camp. He said that as he was about to leave she told him, “Now that you know, you must do something.”

Prendergast aimed to get students to understand why it is important to take action to help stop the genocide in Darfur. He started by explaining the background of the genocide in Darfur, telling listeners about the government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing implemented by the Janjaweed. Listeners heard that 1,500 villages have been destroyed in the genocide. “This is not divide and conquer,” Prendergast said. “This is divide and destroy.”

Prendergast also explained why harsh actions have not yet been taken. According to Prendergast, this inactivity is fueled by the belief that Africa is a hopeless continent. In particular, he outlined several movies that show how Hollywood continues this belief, including movies such as “Blood Diamond” and “Lord of War.” Prendergast said that what movie-goers fail to realize is that these movies capture a moment in time. Now, many of the countries featured in the movies are at peace.Menu of Lifesaving Tips for Darfur

“Africa is a continent full of hope and limitless possibilities for transformation,” Prendergast said. He pointed out that most African nations are still quite young compared to nations like the United States. All countries go through periods of upheaval, and Prendergast said that people need to realize that Sudan is not that different and is currently in its darkest hour.

“I believe that it is always darkest before the dawn, and Sudan’s dawn, Darfur’s dawn is coming,” Prendergast said. “We can help bring it much more quickly.”

Prendergast particularly emphasized the importance of the formation of mass movements by the people to pressure to the government to make changes. When people get interested and involved, people will take notice and politicians will take the time to respond. He also emphasized the importance of using social networking to connect and make individual voices heard. “The incredible thing is that any one of us can fight genocide in Darfur, halfway around the world, from the living room,” Prendergast said.

One of the key factors in fighting the genocide, according to Prendergast, is forming a human connection. Prendergast told listeners that they have a tremendous amount of accountability to bring about change. “The key I think is to look at our own skills and social network,” Prendergast said. “See what kind of unique contribution you can make.”

Prendergast finished his speech by telling the audience to make enough noise to have a chance to help end the 21st century first genocide. “We must raise our voices for Amina,” Prendergast said, “and all the people of Sudan.”

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One Response

  1. Super work on incorporating storytelling quotes and allowing the speaker to tell his own story.

    Also it is EXCELLENT to break out an infobox of action steps for your audience. I think you could still use some work on learning how to make a box effectively. Don’t be shy about asking one of your classmates who are good at this to show you how to redo this and then you can really make this layout look fantastic. The typography is too light and difficult to read, and you can sharpen it up in other ways, too. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn something that will keep being of benefit forever in the future.

    Also, great links list at the bottom. You are giving VALUE to the people in your audience when you give them so many specific details that they can use.

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