Voices of our Community


From Bystander to Participant; Genocide Prevention & Awareness Month

by Melanie Nelkin, Chair, Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide

In the 21st century, we have unfortunately experienced the impact of genocide in our time, as have our parents, grandparents, and many generations of our ancestors.  Taking action against current day genocide and mass atrocities, however, is easier said than done.  In the United States, a culture of relative safety and security, it is a conscious choice to stand up against these atrocities.  These events are taking place now, but are often mistaken as issues “over there” for many Americans.  It’s important for us to make a decision. We can either choose to continue perception and remain bystanders, or take action by raising our voices for those who cannot.

This year, the Georgia General Assembly has invited the Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide to participate in the 4th Annual Resolution Renewal to declare April as Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month in Georgia.  This resolution establishes that Georgia recognizes the importance of raising awareness about the causes and dynamics of genocide and other inhumane crimes. 

The resolution also creates a collective movement toward prevention in Georgia.  Building awareness around these atrocities begins at home and in our communities.  We should teach our children early on about the lessons learned from the causes of genocide in our history, and educate them on contemporary issues surrounding atrocities and human rights violations.  Teaching young children the importance of advocacy will aid in the prevention of future genocides and other mass atrocities.  

Many individuals, who were once refugees, are now U.S. citizens and call Georgia their home.  They have worked hard to begin new lives, learn new trades, and some have had to acquire a new language. Several have migrated from various places around the world including:  Bosnia, Rwanda, Burma, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and many other countries.  Many of them now represent a cohort of dedicated individuals who believe that telling their stories will significantly impact those that hear them – turning their audiences into activists who will raise their voice and stand up against current and future acts of violence.

Genocide did not end with the Holocaust, as there are various civil and human rights violations happening around the world today.  This April marks the 20th anniversary of genocide in Rwanda, and many cities in the United States and abroad will be hosting commemorative events to honor those lost during the tragedy. We are also in the 11th year of the genocide and ongoing atrocities in Darfur, where the Government of Sudan continues to commit crimes against its own civilians in the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan.

April is the month where you challenge yourself to move from  a bystander to a participant in the prevention of genocide by attending an event, signing a petition, or getting involved in the legislative process.  As an active citizen, it is important to be involved in the law-making process to ensure that laws are being implemented that are in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It is our duty to insist that these laws are put into effect and followed by all constituents and officials alike.  Not only is it our right as Americans, but also out duty as human beings.

Join us to break the silence against genocide. Attend one of the events below, and follow us on Facebook.

April 27th 11AM
The 49th annual community-wide Holocaust commemoration at Greenwood Cemetery
May 2nd 11AM
Georgia Commission on the Holocaust commemorates Days of Remembrance at the Capitol
June (TBA)
Screening of COEXIST, a film about the reconciliation process on Rwanda post genocide.

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