On Monday, April 4, the Contemporary Issues (CI)organization brought the issue of genocide to West Chester University through guest speakers. Many of the guests have either studied accounts of genocide or experienced the horrific accounts of genocide. The message of the day, however, was more important: genocide continues to this day.
Keynote speaker from Villanova University, Dr. Timothy Horner, spoke about the current events of Rwanda and Darfur. Horner said we need to catch genocide before it starts because once it does, too many lives have been lost and it leads to military action. He continued with “YouTube” clips to illustrate to the audience the skewed view of the people within the country.
The conference continued to inform the audience with other speakers from across the area. Two notable speakers at the conference shared their experiences of genocide. Leo Bretholz and Daravann Yi explained their primary accounts of genocide. Bretholz is a holocaust survivor living in America and educating young Americans on the Holocaust through his writings.
In another part of the world, and a different time, Daravann Yi shared his story of living in Cambodia in the 1970’s. He managed to escape the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia and fled to Thailand in 1980. He does not dwell on the past. Instead, he said that he learns from it and moves forward to live in the present and to plan for the future. In addition, Yi founded the Salt Seeker Foundation, which is dedicated to providing support to improve the quality of life for orphans living in Cambodia.
The conference also offered audience questions and panel discussions. Each panel consisted of scholars who have been studying the topic of genocide and the ideals of these countries for quite some time. During this time audience members asked questions to find out more information on genocide, and what they could do in response to it. Colleen McHugh, president of Contemporary Issues, said that not many students at the university know what is going on, especially in Darfur.
“We try to bring programs to make students aware of issues,” she said. McHugh also said that the U.N. does not recognize the genocide in Darfur.
McHugh did offer some advice as to how students can get more informed.
“Join Contemporary Issues club, read online news, just educate yourself on these issues and if there is something that you feel passionate about, post it on Facebook, Twitter, just get the message out.”
McHugh said that she is very happy with the student turn out and she appreciates the support of the student body. As the organization looks toward the future, they plan to bring more information about current issues to the student body. They have already begun brainstorming for next year’s programming.
T.J. Cromyak is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AC61771@wcupa.edu.