At the end of last year, the American Red Cross – St. Louis Region conducted its Raid Cross event with college students from Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis Community College – Meramec. The facilitators were Francis Abari, Nermana Huskic, Michael Pfeifer, Marie Rantz, and Shima Rostami.
The first day was devoted to general education about International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the IHL Action Campaign, and simulations on topics such as prisoners of war, humanitarian aid, wounded, artillery, military headquarters and trials.
The prisoners of war (POW) simulation took on an added level of realism because one of the facilitators, Francis Abari, had been a POW and a “secret prisoner” in Africa. The students paid rapt attention as he described his disappearance and his eventual release. The POW simulation was modified to include a “secret prisoner”. Some of the other “prisoners” were not aware that one of them had “disappeared” until the ICRC representative in the simulation tried to account for all prisoners. In addition, “prisoners” had their passports confiscated and were issued POW identifications. In the debriefing that followed the event, students expressed how they felt the effects, even during this brief dehumanization.
The artillery simulation had one team accidentally shell a nuclear power plant, while the other team elected to bombard the town sheltering enemy soldiers in the military headquarters simulation. Both teams were prosecuted during the trial simulation for their crimes. As in the real world, students mounted creative and passionate defenses for their actions. The violations brought prison sentences for both teams.
Beginning on Sunday, Emily Kenney, Youth Program Education Officer from the American Red Cross National Headquarters joined the event. Emily was able to take part in the gender and refugee simulations. Both simulations had a powerful effect on the students, and it was a great chance for the St. Louis IHL Action Campaign team to showcase their progress. This time again, the St. Louis facilitators included someone with real life experience. Nermana Huskic told her story as a young child fleeing ethnic cleansing in the middle of the night from Bosnia during the Serbian-Bosnian War.
The refugee simulation introduced a new element in which “refugees” were given event cards at random during the simulation. In addition to the possible loss of the most cherished items the students had listed, they could also find themselves dealing with an event such as the loss of their passport, an injured hand, or tuberculosis.
On the following day, Emily sat down with Marie Rantz, the Volunteer Services Specialist heading the IHL Action Campaign in St. Louis, as well as the other Raid Cross facilitators to assess Raid Cross, identify areas for improvement, and generate additional ideas to better convey the IHL message. Emily’s feedback on Raid Cross was positive and valuable. There was also brainstorming among the group on how to take IHL learning and awareness to new audiences across the country. The IHL Action Campaign teams in St. Louis have begun their meetings and are well into planning their IHL Action Campaign during the month of March.
Author: Michael Pfeifer, Volunteer, International Services