The hardships of being a refugee: Initiative for Peace and Amnesty International COP Day
This week we had another Change of Pace Day (COP Day), organized by our school’s Amnesty International and Initiative for Peace (IFP) Quan Cai. As a member of both groups, I had the wonderful opportunity to facilitate throughout the entire day. At 9 am the assembly hall opened its doors to all first years that slowly started to fill up the rows. Together with Munya (Zimbabwe), Sakib (Bangladesh), Jonathan (Hong Kong), I gave the opening presentation, introducing the theory of conflict management, the definition and concepts of peace, as well as common misconceptions about the root causes of conflict. Our presentation ended with a short overview of the role of IFP at LPC, in the Hong Kong community as well as South-East Asia.
The first half of the day was facilitated by us IFP members. All first years had previously been allocated in groups who then went to their respective rooms with the IFP members, where they conducted various conflict management and peacebuilding activities.
The second half of the day was facilitated by Amnesty International and started with a keynote address by Archana, a human rights lawyer working for Liberty Asia, an anti-trafficking organization. I know Archana from Students against Slavery and she has had a strong impact on many of us. Her experiences range from defending 4-year olds who suffered from abuse, to working for the UNHCR and encountering many heartbreaking cases of young girls who had to undergo inhumane treatment, whether that be genital mutilation or forced prostitution. She is an incredible woman whose speech inspired and moved us all.
After he wonderful introduction, the first years were once again allocated in groups and then had to go to their respective groups. As Amnesty International QC we had prepared a “Refugee Simulation”. All first years were handed out an identity and passport and had to move from place to place (“room to room”), encountering various obstacles, such as immigration tests, forced labour, detention, etc. We set up different stations and situations in various rooms, each representing a possible stage a refugee has to undergo, such as being a child soldier, police interviews or the UNCR. Together with Louise (Rwanda) I was in charge of the room for “illegal workers”. We had set up the room in different sections, one being a waiting line, one the jail and one the workplace, where they had to do work continuously, otherwise fearing to be yelled at or sentenced to jail.
The aim of the refugee simulation was for the college community to get a glimpse of the circumstances of a refugee. After a few hours all participants were exhausted from being chased from room to room. Especially the groups who were allocated to the rooms depicting the situation of child soldiers and forced labour were very moved by their experience.
All in all, even though COP day was tiring and emotionally impacting, it went well and conveyed a strong message to all of us, causing us to think about the injustice happening in the world.