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Genocide Awareness is Needed In April, Year-Round

April has been set aside by several U.S. states as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

It was first designated by state resolutions in California (2010), Minnesota and Texas (2011), Georgia and New Hampshire (2014), and has become a national observance.

New Hampshire passed a resolution in 1990 setting aside April 24 as a time to remember the Armenian genocide, which was expanded to all instances of genocide in 2014.

April was chosen, explained Ellen Kennedy, executive director of World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, because most instances of genocide in the 20th century began in this month – Armenia (April 1915), Germany (1933), Cambodia (1975), Bosnia (1992), Rwanda (1994), Darfur (2003).

While EthicsDaily.com has posted articles related to genocide previously, in reviewing this content it is evident that we have not given this issue sufficient attention.

We are posting a series of columns on genocide this month to help remedy this reality, seeking to provide additional resources to assist congregations in engaging this issue.

In addition to this series, EthicsDaily.com’s next feature-length documentary, titled “Genocide 66,” will focus on the little-known genocide committed in Nigeria in 1966 and the courageous acts of intervening missionaries from several Christian denominations. Many of the interviewees in the film, scheduled for release in 2016, have not told their stories publicly until now.

This film “explores what missionaries experienced and did in the face of horrific atrocities in Jos, Nigeria, in 1966,” said Robert Parham, EthicsDaily.com’s executive editor. “It is a powerful example of human beings working for the good amid systemic evil – and the human capacity to triumph over horrible events. It represents the best of what missionaries do under the most trying of circumstances.”

Baptist missionary Bryant Durham is one example of someone whose heroic, humanitarian efforts during the Nigerian genocide have largely been forgotten.

Beyond EthicsDaily.com’s resources, several organizations have material available that can assist church leaders in providing education and moral reflection on genocide.

The Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas, suggests 30 actions you can take. The list includes many links to educational resources about genocide.

The Enough Project provided a tool kit in 2014 with information about atrocities currently being committed and ways to respond.

This kit includes a brief history of genocide, short summaries of nations with significant conflict and refugees at the present time as well as information about organizing a genocide awareness event.

The Satellite Sentinel Project, a partner organization of The Enough Project, offers a combination of columns and news stories on their blog as well as organizational reports and satellite imagery documenting evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

World Without Genocide offers a variety of educational resources, as does PBS Teachers, while Human Rights Watch provides numerous reports about historical instances of genocide.

The United Nations has made available a PDF of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide for those interested in primary source material.

This document, which has been ratified by 146 nations, set forth the first internationally recognized definition of genocide as well as penalties and punishments for individuals or groups who commit genocide.

The U.N. also has genocide resources available through their Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.

For ministers who plan to educate their congregations about genocide during April, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum suggests five actions that will help you implement a constructive approach:

1. Define the term “genocide.”

2. Investigate the context and dynamics that have led to genocide.

3. Be wary of simplistic parallels to other genocides.

4. Analyze American and world responses.

5. Illustrate positive actions taken by individuals and nations in the face of genocide.

Following these guidelines and using the resources above will help avoid misunderstanding genocide and enable churches to engage in substantive, informed reflection on historical instances of genocide and past global responses.

April is a chance not only to educate congregations about genocide, but also to recognize the importance of people of faith calling for increased vigilance in recognizing signs of potential genocide and urging political leaders to intervene whenever and wherever it happens.

This is a month for congregations to initiate or refine such initiatives as well as to establish a plan to sustain the focus year-round, so that anemic, indecisive responses to genocide are no longer the norm.

Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachDawes_Jr.

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series focused on genocide. Part three, a video interview with Godfrey Uzoigwe about the definition of genocide, will appear tomorrow.

Previous articles in the series are:

Genocide Is Worse Than War