Teenagers campaign to raise awareness of genocide

Image caption The Holocaust memorial in Berlin - but how many young people know about more recent genocides?

In the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations declared genocide an international crime, but too few young people know about the genocides that have occurred since, say teenage campaigners.

A group from Hampton School visited the House of Commons as part of their efforts to raise awareness. Year 11 student James was with them. This is his report.

The worst crime humans can commit has its own word: "genocide". The term was coined 67 years ago and this year the UN declared December 9 the day to remember victims around the world.

Modern genocides

Yet how many young people in the UK have any knowledge of the genocides that have occurred since the Holocaust? Students from a group of 15 schools, including Hampton, have been investigating.

They asked more than 800 11- to 16-year-olds how much they knew about genocides other than the Holocaust.

  • 81% could not name any modern genocides.
  • Only 13% know about the Rwandan genocide
  • 5% were aware of atrocities in Bosnia and Cambodia
  • 2% knew about the Darfur killings.

But 78% agreed they would benefit from more information about genocide: a huge motivation for the group.

Representatives went to the House of Commons on December 7 to discuss how to increase genocide awareness with Sir Eric Pickles, UK Envoy on Post-Holocaust Issues.

Image copyright Hampton School
Image caption Hampton students attended a meeting about genocide awareness in the House of Commons

"We need to understand that within society we're all capable of injustice and hatred. The real success is finding a way to bring out the best in mankind, not dividing society even further," Sir Eric told the group.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, congratulated the students for their "important survey of young people's awareness of genocide", as they had "refused to stand by and are determined to raise awareness of genocide".

The students also met Eric Murangwa, survivor of the Rwandan genocide and founder of Survivors Tribune, which works to bring survivors' voices into classrooms.

He maintains "education and awareness are the most powerful weapons that we can use to change the world... the education of genocide in UK schools is not an option but a priority."

'Never again'

Dr Waqar Azmi, chairman of Remembering Srebrenica, which commemorates the 1995 massacre of Muslims in Bosnia, said it was important to raise awareness of other genocides.

"It is vital our young people learn the lessons from genocide so they can lead the challenge against hatred and intolerance, whilst helping to create a better, safer, more cohesive society."

Other schools in the project include Acklam Grange, Middlesbrough, where students said they wanted to "break down the barriers of genocide".

At Sandbach High School in Cheshire pupils said their aim was to "open young people's eyes towards an issue too many are blind to."

Students at St Clement's High School, King's Lynn, hoped a survivor would visit to raise awareness.

At the Hermitage Academy, in Chester-le-Street, students hoped more knowledge could help prevent future genocides.

James, a year 13 student at Hampton School and a project leader, concluded: "I used to think that, after the Holocaust, 'Never Again' meant exactly that. It didn't. If we are to prevent future genocides we have to learn from the mistakes that we always seem to repeat."