Today I visited an exhibition held at the Wits University senate building on the Darfur region. This small exhibition organised by a group called the Darfur Awareness Committee, seeks to raise awareness about the situation in that region. The region has been in conflict since tensions arose between the 'furs' (black settlers and owners of the land) and the arabs (migrant minority ruling group), leading to armed clashes in the late 1990s. Darfur means 'land of the furs', the furs, original settlers of the land are predominantly black. The reason for the war in the Darfur region is simply the wish of the arab migrants who are more powerful, due to their dominant position in government, to completely erase the furs and take complete 'ownership' of the land.
I had never bothered to find out what the conflict in the Darfur region was all about. This underscores for me some of the things I learnt this week during our WOW sessions. Particularly in the area of conflict resolution, as well as the need to be informed about one's environment - knowledge. As individuals we are so self-centered, we are not taught to work in or as a team. The drive for individual success is drummed into our psyche from an early age. Even as peoples of the same race and ethnic affiliations, we do not relate to one another with the spirit of 'brotherhood', individual power and success take center stage.
Why do we have these kinds of conflicts -the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur - that end in mass genocide? Worse still, why does the world keep silent and watch when these kinds of terrible in-humane acts are carried out? Today, I asked myself the question 'how can I make a difference?' There are two quotes that I read from the exhibition that touched me profoundly:
''Today we know that choices about how
we live affect the natural environment,
but we tend to overlook the impact of
our choices on the political environment
in which crises take place.
We can choose to be informed
We can choose to act
It does make a difference''.
''Serious evils require serious action. If we are serious about responsibility to protect,
We really need to be asking some more radical questions about personal responsibility''.
Mukesh Kapila, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, 2003 - 2004.
How can I make a difference, how can WE make a difference? I need to reflect on that question very carefully because it is not a simple one. I do know that it is important that I be the best I can be, using my skills and natural talents to contribute towards a better world. I don't want to make it sound so simplistic but I think we must start from ourselves, and closely examine how we relate to people around us. I also questioned myself about how much responsibility I take for the things I do that affect other people. The skill of conflict resolution is an important one to have. We learnt about stress management this week, another element that affects our lives greatly. Perhaps if we are trained to deal with these sorts of things in high school and varsity, it would be easier to navigate both in our personal lives, the work place and the broader world.
For more information on the Darfur Awareness Committee and the crisis in Darfur please see my other interesting links list.