Taking action against systematic killing

by Julia Ernst

The crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan and the recent genocide in Rwanda, as well as the memory of the Holocaust over 60 years ago, has prompted sophomore Julie Abernathy to take action.

Abernathy, leader of newly-established STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network, decided to pursue the group after this year’s Unity Days.

“The idea of starting a chapter on Rider’s campus came from a Unity Days workshop run by [senior] Matt Semel where we watched Darfur Now and talked about some ideas,” Abernathy said. “I had always been passionate about the cause and had done some research, which led me to STAND’s Web site. The organization makes it so easy to come together and make a difference, there’s really no excuse not to.”

The organization was started at Georgetown University and now has more than 850 chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges in more than 250 countries worldwide, Abernathy explained. The goal of the organization, which continues to be entirely student-run, focuses on education.

“The purpose of the organization is to assist students everywhere in organizing and educating their peers and communities, advocating to their elected officials for substantial legislative action, divest their schools, cities and states and fundraising for student protection,” Abernathy said.

The group held its first meeting yesterday in the Bart Luedeke Center.

“Our first meeting was fairly small because of the weather and the time it was held, but the few who were there had a lot to talk about,” Abernathy said.

She added that because it is already very late in the semester, it will be difficult to accomplish a great deal right away.

“There isn’t much time for us to act before the end of the semester,” Abernathy said, “but we have plenty of ideas for next semester, including selling T-shirts, having an art show or a benefit, screening movies or having speakers.”

Crises, such as Darfur, that are ongoing in today’s world were the primary inspiration for Abernathy to start the group. She added that there are additional issues that happen in the world that very few people actually take notice of.

“In the past few weeks, there has been an outbreak of fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the world has yet to take notice,” Abernathy said. “This is the way that the conflicts in Rwanda and Darfur started, and we have a chance now to help prevent that kind of genocide from happening again.”

For more information on the national organization, visit www.standnow.org. Students interested in joining the campus group can contact Julie Abernathy at abernathy@rider.edu

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