by Emily Kenney, Intern International Humanitarian Law
The people looking back at me in the mirror were unrecognizable. Dressed head-to-toe in army fatigues with hats, sunglasses and bandanas covering our faces, I was surprised to see how quickly my coworkers and I had transformed into intimidating soldiers.
On cue, the four of us stormed into the conference room where the 34 middle school, high school, community college professors, and administrators were listening to a presentation on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the Geneva Conventions. Unbeknownst to attendees, they were now participating in Raid Cross, an interactive simulation that teaches the rules of war. Acting as soldiers from an opposing military, the element of surprise worked to our advantage; we quickly separated the group—participants the Exploring Humanitarian Law Summer Institute (EHL)—rounded up their Raid Cross “passports,” and interrogated them for information. At first, there was a lot of confusion and then a few laughs, but as we progressed with the simulation activity, the EHL Institute attendees became more serious as they encountered continuous demands that ignored their basic rights as prisoners of war.
Learning about the realities of armed conflict and the importance of IHL from a comfortable American classroom can be difficult. Raid Cross offers a way to experience some of the realities faced by stakeholders during times of conflict in a low-risk setting, among peers and Red Cross staff. The full Raid Cross training includes activities that simulate the experiences of combatants, humanitarian aid works, and civilians involved during times of conflict; these activities are aimed at helping Raid Cross participants understand the complexities of war. The experiential learning methods of Raid Cross are used with young people to raise their awareness about how people feel when they are mistreated, captured, or threatened during times of conflict. The wartime simulation activity is a very effective tool to help young people apply IHL, providing an opportunity to understand IHL outside of the classroom.
The educators that attended the EHL Summer Institute spent the four-day workshop learning about IHL and how to incorporate EHL into their classroom curriculum. Their participation in the Raid Cross prisoners of war simulation was an opportunity to experience an activity they could facilitate for their own students. These educators will return to their schools around the United States with the skills and tools to incorporate the EHL lesson plans and Raid Cross activities into their classrooms, thus teaching the next generation about the importance of IHL principles and humanitarian law.