By Luwei Q.
Before getting involved with the Horace Mann Red Cross Club in Bronx, NY, I honestly had no idea what International Humanitarian Law (IHL) was. I wasn’t involved with the U.N. club or Debate team; I thought it was an unnecessary amount of effort to educate myself in a field in which I was not interested. I thought it only involved a lot of rhetoric between old women and older men, and frankly, a lack of action behind their words. I saw the inefficiency of legislative bodies, whether in Washington or Geneva, and took it as an excuse to distance myself from most of their laws.
However, I certainly had no idea that IHL wasn’t about actions behind words; they more importantly addressed words behind actions.
IHL assures that in chaos, there will be justice regardless of what side of the dispute you’re on. It means that a wounded soldier, medical volunteer, and an innocent bystander all have safety in times of war. It means that those who exploit and steal volunteer aid symbols and vehicles for immunity are brought to justice. It means that the wounded man or woman at your feet, whether fighting for your side or not, gets the care he/she needs. IHL recognizes your actions and role in war and exists to protect either you or the person you’ve harmed.
I recently went to the Raid Cross event in New York with a few of my friends expecting to be assaulted with all the hot air and inaction that I usually associate with the words “international” and “law”. As I rode, tired and sleepy, on the subway at 8 am on a weekend morning, I expected that I would not care. What I learned that day was that, surprisingly, laws do matter. (Shocker!)
Gathered there with others from the Greater New York chapter, all on differing levels of grogginess and blood to caffeine ratios, I found, for the first time, the purpose of the strange field of legislation. I saw not the limits of words on paper, but a necessity for the limits of words on war.
If we, not only as members of a teen chapter of the Red Cross, but as members of society, are blind to the exploiters and the exploited in armed conflict, then where do we stand? Do we have to wait until our own country is embroiled in war to care?
I think this is why we’re all part of this IHL Action Campaign: not only to raise awareness for the laws themselves, but to illustrate the humanity behind them, and to show everyone and everything IHL affects. We want to not only get our points across, but also to inspire and impassion people; people who, like me, once didn’t even know or care about IHL.
At the end of it all, whether it is a few months, or at the end of this sentence, we just hope people learn, listen, and ultimately…. care.