by Jeff Mandell, ’13
At Stanford STAND, the student coalition against genocide and mass atrocities, one of the major challenges we face is staying informed about all of the conflicts we cover. Currently, we do educational events, advocacy, fundraising, and other activism related to Syria, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. It’s definitely not easy for a full-time student to keep up with the news in all of these countries, let alone acquire and maintain the level of knowledge needed for truly informed activism. When you consider that most of us have never been to any of these countries and have little awareness of their varied cultures, you might wonder if it’s even possible for us to be informed.
The answer I’ve come up with after being involved in STAND for four years is that while we may never know as much as we should, we can still do good work as long as we are always trying to learn more. We all specialize in different conflict countries — for example, I know more about Sudan than I do about Syria — and we turn to those most expert among us to help us interpret the news. We bring in real experts as often as we can, and over time we have learned to weigh their insights and their biases against each other. Most importantly, after we dedicate ourselves to a new initiative — such as when we campaigned for Stanford to support conflict-free minerals in the DRC — we stay open to the possibility of changing directions later, when more information becomes available. While we still keep our eye on conflict minerals, we know that the killing, rape, and lack of justice in the Eastern DRC is much more complex than a lack of oversight in the mining industry, and we have accordingly focused our more recent advocacy on other issues.
STAND exists because we care about preventing genocide and other horrible human rights abuses, and we feel morally obligated to do the best we can in contributing to solutions. What would ever get done in this world if STAND members and others like us didn’t dare to try to make a difference? As long as we never stop pursuing more education on the issues, we can be sure that our difference will be a positive one.
On Wednesday night, we will be continuing our education with a talk by Kambale Musavuli of Friends of the Congo, who will speak about the need for increased political consciousness about the conflict in the DRC. I hope that you will be inspired to come to this event to continue your personal human-rights education!
Jeff is the Co-President of Stanford STAND, an organization that is part of the national, student-led movement to end genocide and mass atrocity. They focus on human rights in Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan, Syria, and Burma. If you are interested in joining the movement, and making a difference through informed activism, please join them for a meeting — every Tuesday night at 9:15pm in the Haas Center for Public Service.