Over this last weekend, WorldOregon participated in and helped cosponsor Exiled to Nowhere: A Symposium on the Rohingya Crisis, in partnership with Never Again Coalition, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Oregon Historical Society, and other community partners. The symposium brought together photojournalists, legal and human rights professionals, activists, community members, and survivors of genocide to educate and inspire awareness and action around the current plight of the Rohingya, the Muslim minority of Myanmar.
Often times the public programs that we offer at WorldOregon are around very hard topics – such as genocide, human trafficking, and human rights abuses. Our challenge as an organization is to not look away from difficult conversations but invite deeper connection and understanding that inspires action from our members and wider audiences.
The Rohingya symposium last week was yet another example of how Oregon residents are putting knowledge into action to serve their global community. WorldOregon member and photojournalist John Rudoff was one of several photographers who spoke on a panel during the symposium about the responsibility of documenting genocide.
"My work as a photojournalist exposes me to seeing things that are usually invisible to many of my fellow citizens...and I have several times given talks [at WorldOregon] about humanitarian crises I have covered overseas."
“Particularly in recent years, any events or changes overseas tend to be drowned out… [WorldOregon] speakers, journalists, and reports from elsewhere are important reminders that ‘there is a world elsewhere.’”
The panel of photojournalists was quick to address the ubiquitous nature of images in the age of camera phones and social media. Finding an engaged audience that wants to go "beyond the headline" is what drives their passion for conflict photography.
"I'd rather speak to a room of 80 people who are genuinely interested in engaging with these photographs and having these tough discussions, than 10,000 on social media who only view my image for 5 seconds before scrolling on to new content" photojournalist Andrew Stanbridge acknowledged.
"It's important to me that people meaningfully connect with the stories behind these photos. That's how we raise awareness and initiate real change."
So often we’re asked, “what can an everyday citizen do” in the face of seemingly insurmountable global crises. Whether our WorldOregon members are documenting genocide in Rohingya, implementing foreign policy in U.S. Embassies abroad, or simply sharing what they've learned with their friends--each individual has their role to play.
WorldOregon's role is to initiate Global Conversations that build community and invite dialogue that is grounded in global care, activism, and social justice. By creating safe spaces for learning, Oregonians can take action as informed global citizens and foster sustainable change.
WorldOregon is blessed to have members who not only bring their expertise to our community but are working hard to ensure our international neighborhood is always visible. We look forward to future generations of Oregonians who are inspired by our public programs to take leadership in their community and initiate global change.