Student Life Editor
On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Keene State College’s Holocaust and Genocide Awareness club encouraged students to turn off their cell phones from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. to raise awareness for the conflict in Congo. The event ran in conjunction with the Friends of the Congo National’s Congo Awareness Week.
Students who shut off their cell phones for the six hours were asked to forward a text and reset their voicemail to inform those who try to contact them about the conflict in Congo.
The conflict in the Congo has been called the bloodiest crisis since World War II and has been going on for 25 years. During this time, 5.4 million people have died, three million have been displaced, and others have been raped and injured.
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Brittney Sousa, who organized the event on behalf of the club, explained that the Congo is looted for resources which make up electronics that most people use every single day.
“The saddening fact is that the international community is perpetuating the violence by looting the Congo for their precious resources of uranium, diamonds, petroleum, and mostly their colton,” Sousa said. “This leaves the people of the Congo politically and economically vulnerable, making violence more possible than ever.”
By turning off cell phones, students hoped to spark conversation and let people know about the crisis in the Congo, which is called “the best kept secret.”
“It is important to raise awareness because it isn’t something that is in the news a lot,” Danielle Flaherty said. “It’s something that everyone can benefit from, so therefore, it’s kept a secret.”
Flaherty emphasized that because the convenience of technology helps nearly every aspect of our lives, the atrocities necessary to obtain materials to produce these products aren’t exposed.
“We want to change that,” Flaherty said. “We want to make people more aware of how their products get to them and whether or not the hands that they pass through are bloody.”
In addition to protesting cell phone use by shutting them off for the afternoon, the group hoped that the forwarding of text messages explaining the event and changing voicemail messages would reach far beyond campus to inform friends and family elsewhere of the significance of the crisis in the Congo.
“By turning off our cell phones, we are fighting this by not making the people we talk to on campus aware about this, but everyone we keep in contact with,” Chloe Edmonds said. “For this reason, it is very effective because we are not only spreading this message of awarness of the Congo to our peers in the Keene State community, but to people around the country who we need to explain why our phones are turned off.”
Johanna DeBari noted that in addition to the deaths occurring because of the resource looting, rape is being used to wage war as well.
“What is unique about the Congo conflict is that rape is being used as a weapon of war,” DeBari said. “Women and children have been most greatly affected because of this brutal technique and we hoped that having people turn off their cell phones would help give all of these people a voice.”
Although the group was satisfied in knowing they created conversation on campus, they’d still like to see more participation.
“I don’t think it was as effective as we would have want simply because I don’t think our advertising reached out to as many people as we wanted,” Debari said.
Next year, the group aims to increase their advertising to get more people involved and continue to inform about where goods come from.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org