Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Students take stand versus genocide

Edina High School senior Holly Wollesen first heard the word genocide in a sermon at her congregation, Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota. Her pastor was talking about the people of Darfur in Sudan, and informed parishioners about the challenges these people have faced.

Now, Wollesen has become an active participant in Minnesota’s first high school chapter of STAND, an anti-genocide organizing group formed at Edina High School. She said it is important “to find out what is really happening in the world.”

Edina High School student Holly Wollesen was energized by anti-genocide activist Omékongo Dibinga recently during a symposium at Edina High School. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

Emma Weisberg, one of the co-founders of STAND: EHS (Edina High School), told Metro Lutheran that the chapter was formed when she and Shara Mohtadi heard Ashis Brahma, the only doctor serving more than 25,000 refugees from Darfur along the Chad-Sudan border, speak about the genocide waged against people there. The students invited him to speak at Edina High School, and the auditorium was packed. Programs on Rwanda and Cambodia followed, and an anti-genocide chapter was formed. STAND: EHS works “to educate, advocate, and fund-raise to end human rights violations” around the world, Weisberg explained.

More than five million people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since hostilities broke out 14 years ago. Rape is consistantly used as a weapon of terror.

A year later, the core group of STAND numbers about 20; more than 300 students are involved in some manner. And the impact is even greater, as demonstrated during a recent symposium by Omékongo Dibinga, a spoken word artist and human rights activist working to end the genocide in his home-country of Congo.

More than five million people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since hostilities broke out 14 years ago. Rape is consistantly used as a weapon of terror, according to Dibinga. To this day 45,000 people continue to die each month from food shortages, disease, and violence, which is why Dibinga says there can no longer be “silence about violence.”

Students from more than 25 classes seemed to receive the message during Dibinga’s presentation. When he finished, they stood in silence, taking in the weight of their responsibility.

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