The chilly, wet weather didn’t stop them from gathering together. It was dark and late for some, but the group of 20 people still stood huddled outside of King Library in mid-November. In a small circle, they held candles that burned brightly against the dim light of the weekday night.
To Miami University senior Allison Kreinberg, she had a message to convey.
“We cannot stand by and watch this genocide happen,” Kreinberg said over the candlelight. “We must be active in the fight against it and pressure the international community to act.”
The group of 20 stood for the victims of the genocide in Darfur, a region of Sudan.
Next, Oliver Mogga, vice president of academic affairs, spoke.
“The victims in Darfur are waiting for us and others who understand their fight to rescue them,” Mogga said.
For Mogga, Sudan is home.
While Darfur may seem like the other side of the world for many Miami students, Oliver Mogga, vice president of academic affairs, and students like junior Brooke Hathaway and
Kreinberg are bringing it much closer.
Answering the call
Hathaway, a political science and history major, spent the spring 2008 semester as an intern for the Democratic Leadership Council in Washington D.C. It was during this internship that Hathaway began to be interested in Darfur.
“(The region) intrigued me,” Hathaway said.
After reading a book on the Sudanese region and seeing the film, Save Darfur, Hathaway said she was intrigued by the line, “I don’t want to look back and say I didn’t do anything.”
Hathaway said it was then she decided to transform talk into action.
“If you know this is going on, how can you not get involved?” Hathaway said.
While home for summer, Hathaway began researching similar groups and learning how to form a new student organization at Miami with a focus on activisim toward the Darfur conflict.
In her initial attempt to recruit members, Hathaway said she e-mailed as many people as she could, including sorority sisters and old friends from her first year.
“I really didn’t think I would have any response over the summer,” Hathaway said.
To her surprise, Hathaway said her initial e-mail was sent from listserv to listserv, resulting in at least 80 responses.
Kreinberg, a biochemistry and environmental science major, was one of those who responded.
“I was just thinking about it, and how it’s so easy to get absorbed and just worry about things like grades and your social life,” Kreinberg said. “But by joining Save Darfur, it really helped me to take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture, and realize that many people have bigger problems than most of the things that are happening in my life.”
Like Hathaway, Kreinberg said she felt she could not stand by and do nothing.
“It can be hard to find some direct effect that the tragedy in Darfur has on our lives as Miami students, but that doesn’t give us a reason to just sit by and watch what’s happening,” Kreinberg said. “If something similar were to take place closer to home, I would like to think that other countries would come to our aid. While we have the ability to help improve the situation in Darfur, we should do all that we can.”
Staggering statistics also played a role in her involvement.
“I had always kind of heard the statistics about the millions displaced and 400,000 murdered but never really given any thought to the problem,” Kreinberg said. “However, one day I realized what those numbers actually meant and the number of lives ruined. Instead of just waiting around for other people to fix the problem, Brooke helped me realize that we have an obligation to do what we can to help, even if its only a little.
Kreinberg, who became a divestment chair for the group, joined 10 other executive members selected by Hathaway: a secretary and treasurer, three vice presidents of planning, public relations, and activism, along with chairs in fundraising, volunteering, media and activism.
Hathaway assumed the role as president, yet said she still had work to do to get Save Darfur up and running during the fall 2008 semester.
Still requiring a constitution, a faculty adviser, funding and additional members, Hathaway found help and support from Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science and a West Africa native.
“I was very impressed by what she wanted to do,” Saine said.
After meeting with Hathaway, Saine said he was impressed with the organization’s potential.
“That made me really believe that they were on to something really great here with their desire to reach out and to impact other people’s lives in distress,” Saine said.
With ASG’s approval, the organization became official and grew to its current size of 60 members.
Hathaway said educating students on the Darfur crisis was of utmost importance.
“We feel as an organization that if people knew what was going on in Darfur, then they would want to get involved, so our biggest thing is to get people involved,” Hathaway said.
Kreinberg agreed, saying she worked to promote an international perspective.
“I like to tell people that sometimes it’s good to think outside the box and put a global
perspective on your life and be willing to take the time to help others,” Kreinberg said.
Hathaway and Kreinberg said “Save Darfur Week” in November was created to promote awareness of the group, with daily events such as a movie, a concert and the candlelight vigil. Hathaway said members also wrote letters to the U.S. embassy in Washington, D.C. for renewed support and discussion about the region.
In addition Kreinberg said members are working to obtain 500 signatures on postcards to be mailed to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee to urge that funds be sent to Sudan.
“This basically shows them that their constituents care about this issue and should do something,” Kreinberg said.
However for Kreinberg, the most important goal is to promote awareness of the Darfur genocide.
“The goal is to increase awareness and educate our peers, so hopefully the more people that learn about the situation the more will join,” Kreinberg said.
Like Hathaway, Mogga said he sees hope in the attendance and promotion of the crisis.
“The victims are certainly looking for help from anyone who can help,” Mogga said. “How would you feel if you do not give the help they need?”
To Mogga, the genocide in Darfur is not only an attack on his homeland but on mankind.
“This catastrophe is an assault on humans (African Sudanese) and I can hardly imagine any person would be disinterest in condemning it,” Mogga said. “History has shown time and again that external voices as well as external good intentions do matter, in positive ways, in Sudan.”
Mogga and the others hold a candle because they cannot be silent.