March 13th at the Georgia Dome marked an historic day for the Georgia General Assembly and genocide prevention advocate organizations. Similar House and Senate resolutions recognizing April as Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month in Georgia were read and passed in both chambers.
With the support of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust (GCH), The Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide (GC2PG,) an advocacy and action organization, catalyzed this piece of legislation. House Representative Elena Parent took the lead adding five co-sponsors and Senator Judson Hill sponsored the Senate resolution. The resolution can be read in full on this page.
Attending the resolution signing were Viki Staley, GCH Executive Director and Sandra Craine, GCH Program Coordinator. On behalf of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust (GCH) Staley states, "it is important for all of us involved in the area of human rights to educate the public on the destructive nature of genocide, work together to send a message that genocide will not be tolerated, and that we will use all of our resources to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice."
GC2PG was invited to each chamber to present the resolution and thank the legislature for its support. Ayak Raeth, an Atlantan since the 1980s, escaped the civil war in South Sudan to build a new life here where she currently works as a lab tech at Grady Memorial Hospital. In her remarks to the House chamber she underscored the importance of US support in Darfur, Sudan, where there is an ongoing genocide and in the newest country of South Sudan where civilians are victims of similar atrocities also committed by the government of Sudans President who is an indicted war criminal.
Semir Dulic, spoke on behalf of the Bosniak community in Lawrenceville. A survivor of the Bosnian genocide committed by the Bosnian Serbs in 1993, he now dedicates his life to genocide prevention as a representative in the Bosnian Muslim Community.
The goal of Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month is to educate the public about the history of previous and contemporary genocides; teaching advocacy against future genocides; to focus attention on the specter of genocide so that policies, strategies and programs geared towards combating the evils of genocide can be developed.
Commemorating the victims of genocide is nothing new in the Atlanta community. This year on April 22nd marks the 48th community wide Holocaust Remembrance Day of Yom Hashoah. There are no demographic trends in the phenomenon of genocide/mass atrocities/eliminationism. Throughout history, there has not been a consistent target population of genocide. The Armenians, Jews, Tutsi, Bosniaks, Christians from South Sudan and Darfuris can testify to that.
Raphael Lemkin was a Holocaust survivor, and a lawyer who grew up in eastern Poland and fled to the US in 1939. He dedicated his life to creating legal protections for ethnic, national, religious and cultural groups and after the war learned that 40 members of his family, including his parents were killed in the Holocaust. Winston Churchill, in his 1941 address noted, "We are in the presence of a crime without a name". Lemkin was the man who coined the word "genocide" and when the UN was created, he saw this problem of genocide as a legal one and thought that the body that would pass such a law could be the newly formed UN. He struggled with the fact that a government nation could essentially do with its citizens whatever it wanted. And so he became a one man-lobbying machine creating an international law to prevent and punish this "crime of crimes". He thought that once the word "genocide" was accepted the world would be ready to oppose the deed and confront the crime. "If he were here with us today," Melanie Nelkin, Chair of GC2PG comments, "I think he would be crushed to look back at the atrocities committed in the last 7 decades but I think he would also be encouraged with the progress in the name of the anti-genocide movement; the upstanders who represent youth, students, faith based organizations and other non-profit organizations who are agitating on behalf of the victims of current day mass atrocities and genocidehe would have hope."
There are no demographic trends in the phenomenon called "the bystander." Historically, it is the largest group when genocide occurs, which proves that the most lethal foes for human rights everywhere are ignorance and indifference. The most effective way to advance human rights is through education, advocacy and action; with a keen focus on how action will impact the victims on the ground.
Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month Schedule of Events
The Daffodil Dash sponsored by Am Yisrael Chai
GC2PG In District Lobby Meeting
Emory University: Global Health & Humanitarian Summit
48th Annual Community Wide Holocaust Remembrance Day
Commemoration of YOM HASHOAH
The Rescuers of The Holocaust sponsored by Am Yisrael Chai