Red Cross opposes war

On March 25, the UTM Red Cross with the cooperation of the UTM Historical Studies Society hosted the Even Wars Have Limits semi-formal dinner at the Blind Duck Pub. The event was intended to raise awareness about the negative consequences of war, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross Even Wars Have Limits campaign.

Attendees were able to choose which issues they wanted the proceeds to go towards, such as women afflicted by war, refugees, weapons issues, or children victimized by war.

The evenings host, Afshan Omar, who is also chairperson of the UTM Red Cross, began the evenings activities with a game that tested the audiences knowledge of the Red Cross. This was followed by a PowerPoint presentation about war which portrayed the destruction caused by weapons such as landmines and the impact of war on vulnerable populations, such as women, children and refugees.

During the course of the evening, guest speaker Svetlana Ageeva spoke about the goals of the Red Cross and stressed that although many people associate the Red Cross with neutrality and impartiality, the Red Cross is not impartial to the suffering of vulnerable populations.

To highlight the importance of student organizations working together, a range of dances was performed by the Tamil Student Association; first, a traditional Tamil dance followed by one based on the story of Romeo and Juliet. After that, Zdrazao Dimitrov of the UTM Music Club gave a musical performance, playing songs based on the theme of challenging war from bands such as Keane and Coldplay.

Attendees then participated in a team-building competition, which included building the tallest structure with marshmallows and spaghetti straws. A visualization exercise ensued right after, where attendees were asked to picture themselves in a situation where they lost a limb. After writing down their emotions while visualizing themselves as limb-less (on sticky-notes provided at each table) their responses were then posted up on a board for all to see.

The overriding objective of all these games and exercises was to encourage attendees to empathize with victims of war. Everybody was asked to examine case scenarios involving people affected by war. A few people were also asked onstage to discuss their scenarios with the rest of the audience.

One such person, Maysoon Sheikh, a fourth-year history and classics major from the St. George campus, talked about a scenario involving a child who was forced into becoming a soldier through government propaganda. Mohamad Awad, president of the UTM Historical Studies Society and a fourth-year history, diaspora and transnational studies student, spoke about another case involving a child soldier and the related issues that it entailed, such as the importance of age, and where guilt truly lies.

The UTM Red Cross also put shoes on the stage in order to symbolize the children who have lost their limbs to landmines. Although it was disturbing and sad to see all these reminders of pain and suffering in the world, the evening left many in attendance feeling empowered, and showed them that it is possible to make a real difference in the world.

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