STAND Mizzou works to bring an end to genocide

STAND Mizzou stresses the importance of contacting elected officials.

MU students representing STAND Mizzou, a chapter of the national student anti-genocide coalition, took steps on Wednesday to engender change on an international level.

Volunteers from Students Taking Action Now: Darfur Mizzou provided information to passersby concerning cases of genocide around the world, as well as resources to help them get involved. They also took pictures of people holding a whiteboard with a personal anti-genocide comment on it, calling it "faces of action."

"We give students the tools they need to become active," STAND Mizzou President Kelsey Birza said.

According to STAND Mizzou, Sudan's Darfur genocide crisis entered its fifth year in February, leaving as many as 400,000 people dead and 2.5 million people homeless.

"Nothing tears the common fabric of humanity more than genocide," Birza said. "It is important that students understand that it is happening around the world."

STAND Mizzou Advocacy Chair Alicia Ludden said Darfur's situation matters to MU students because of the degree of its cruelty.

"I know a lot of people would want to know this is a strong way to make change," Ludden said.

Freshman Erica Martin said the STAND Mizzou volunteers influenced her to get involved with the organization.

"Unfortunately I don't feel as educated as I could be," Martin said. "You hear a lot about it, but it's hard to comprehend. It's kind of hard to turn your back on this."

So students could get involved right away, STAND Mizzou prepared letters for students to sign challenging public officials to take action for Darfur. These letters called on politicians to formulate a clear policy on Darfur, post it on the "issues" section of their campaign Web sites and reference this policy in their stump speech.

"Politicians do listen, so it's important to contact officials," Ludden said.

Birza said these steps do make a difference, citing a congressman who said he would have taken more action against Rwandan genocide had he received 100 letters. She also believes now is the time to make change.

"Our generation cares about what's happening," Birza said. "Our generation will take action."

Bringing the issue to a more political level, STAND Mizzou volunteers also distributed Darfur-related report cards for presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama based on their respective Senate histories.

Having either co-sponsored or voted for 10 pieces of Darfur-related legislation and not supporting one, Obama received an A+ grade. His prior grades were an A in 2007 and an A+ in 2006.

McCain received a C, as he supported seven pieces of Darfur-related legislation and but did not support six. He previously received a C grade in 2007 and a B in 2006.

STAND Mizzou plans to participate in Tents for Hope, a national project to provide aid for Darfur. They will decorate a tent resembling one in refugee camp, then bring it to the National Mall in Washington to join others in protest.

Birza said he hopes this will serve as another message for public officials.

"Americans need to hold their leaders accountable," she said.

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