by John Prendergast, co-author of The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes (Three Rivers Press, 2010)
Three of the most horrible scourges facing humanity are genocide (the destruction of people based on their identity), rape as a war weapon (the deliberate destruction of women through targeted sexual violence), and child slavery (children who are forcibly recruited to become killing machines or sex slaves).
All three seem overwhelming and intractable, but the reality is that there are specific and concrete solutions that can be implemented, if only there were the political and popular will to do so.
Help is indeed on the way. In the last five years, a growing people’s movement has been born in the United States and other countries to stop the genocide in Darfur. Similarly, there are rapidly expanding international efforts to protect and empower the women of Eastern Congo, who are subject to sexual violence more extreme than anywhere else in the world, as well as the children of Central Africa (the Invisible Children) who have experienced the highest abduction rates in the world at the hands of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group.
Once they learn about these human rights crimes, people are eager to learn how they can make a difference. We’ve learned a lot in the last few years, from our travels around the U.S. meeting concerned citizens, about how to empower people to get involved, how to appeal to a wide crosssection of folks to demonstrate how change happens, and how the individual, working in the context of community, is at the center of change throughout history.
The women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the environmental movement, the anti-apartheid movement—all of these were propelled in large part by passionate and dedicated individuals, often small in number at the beginning, who believed in standing up for human rights and human dignity.
For the first time in history, we have a real international anti-genocide movement. We also have a growing chorus that could become a movement focused on stopping the destruction of women in the Congo. We have a non-traditional, underground phenomenon called “Invisible Children” sweeping through college campuses dedicated to finding a solution to the child soldier phenomenon in Central Africa. Building the scale and scope of these efforts through this book and associated campaigns provides a unique and historic opportunity to help alter the course of history.
The Enough Moment presents the transformative tales of what we call “Frontline Upstanders” from war zones in Africa, “Citizen Upstanders” from around the U.S., and “Famous Upstanders” from the world of celebrity, including Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, Madeleine Albright, Ryan Gosling, Tracy McGrady, Ann Curry and Mariska Hargitay. The book also provides an expansive menu of action items to empower each reader to become part of the movement. These stories will be channeled into what amounts to a recruitment drive: to help build a meaningful people’s movement dedicated to ending these human rights crimes.
Ultimately, all the greatest policy ideas in the world mean nothing if we don’t have a permanent constituency of people behind the ideas, demanding that our elected officials do something. The Enough Moment provides a way for readers to become part of this popular movement against mass atrocities that, if successful, could literally help change the fate of millions of people.
JOHN PRENDERGAST is a human rights activist and author. He is cofounder of the Enough Project (enoughproject.org), an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. He has worked in African conflict zones for over twenty-five years and was involved in a number of African peace processes as a diplomat in the Clinton administration.