Tina Suliman (COL ’06) discovered this summer that thousands of people had been killed in mass genocide in her native Sudan.
Although far from her homeland, she knew she had to do something to help. Yet Suliman was unsure of what she could do, or how she could make a difference until she found Students Taking Action Now: Darfur. Now Suliman and many of her friends are doing what they can to create change from across the world.
The organization began after Nate Wright (COL ’06) heard Sudanese Catholic Bishop Macram Max Gassis speak on the Georgetown campus this summer.
Gassis, a well known human rights activist, inspired Wright to gather 30 friends together to attend a special planning event at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington this past August.
Students from around the area converged at the museum to discuss the genocide in Darfur. It was there that these 30 Georgetown students decided to take action, forming STAND.
“What we’re hoping to do is take this coalition national,” Martha Heinemann (SFS ’05) said. “There are universities all over the country interested in starting chapters.”
STAND’s members insist they are not a club but a motivated coalition of students working to end genocide in Sudan. The organization has no president, chair or formal leadership structure. Instead, a core group of members make decisions together. They also choose not to apply for Student Activities Commission funding to preserve their independence and flexibility.
According to Heinemann, the organization is not just speaking out against the situation in Darfur -its members are writing letters to policy makers, taking part in vigils and inviting prominent speakers to campus.
In the next few weeks, STAND will host a panel discussion with experts on Sudan, and they are hoping to draw an audience from all segments of the Georgetown community.
Heinemann spoke excitedly of “flooding policy peoples’ mailboxes with our information,” and “really working to change things.” They are committed to telling the Georgetown student body what is happening in Darfur and motivating them to put pressure on policy makers down the road at the State Department and other government agencies to take action.
Yet there is more to STAND’s mission. They say that they also want people to know the real Sudan and appreciate its beauty.
“A large part of our mission is just awareness of what’s going on in Sudan right now, and what the country is all about,” Heinemann says. “We don’t want people to associate the country solely with genocide. We want people to know about it but also understand the people and cultures of Sudan.”
This is exactly what drew Suliman to the organization in the first place. She is painfully aware of the daily struggles the Sudanese people must deal with, yet she loves her country and speaks of it with great pride.
“The entire STAND organization is bittersweet in a sense,” she says. “People now know where Sudan is, and they’re working to stop something terrible but I don’t want people to see Sudan only as a violent place. It’s such a beautiful country with so many amazing people.”