Learning Rules of War

Eileen Prescott, playing the role of a humanitarian aid worker, navigates a mock minefield during international humanitarian law training at Valparaiso University.

December 10, 2013

By Matt Hawkins

Bradley University and Valparaiso University students are partnering this year to explore international humanitarian law through the Red Cross. Fall semester education and training will be followed by spring semester awareness campaigns that compete for national Red Cross recognition.

Red Cross volunteer and IHL instructor Dr. Bob Wiltz initiated the partnership, which united the first universities to participate in the International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign.

“We want to raise awareness about IHL rules, principles, and values, and increase people's understanding about the need for and the importance of IHL,” Wiltz said. “We also want to inspire action on the part of young people and a continuing interest in IHL. We want our young people to be aware of the rules of war and be able to apply their knowledge to current events.”

Four Bradley senior team leaders — Victoria Berkow, Grecia Ocampo, Eileen Prescott and Cazzie Reyes — spent three October days training at Valparaiso with three pairs of VU leaders. The training sessions showed students rules of war by placing them in roles as civilians, soldiers, prisoners of war and humanitarian aid workers. Students then were briefed on issues surrounding child soldiers and international justice.

Training proved to be eye opening for Berkow.

“As the only history major out of the four of us, I had the least experience and knowledge about modern international law and humanitarian issues,” she said. “Anything where I can both learn something new and help get a message across to Bradley is great.”

Team leaders are now recruiting students to participate in the spring awareness campaigns. Teams will train new members in November and will launch campaigns in the spring. In total, about 50 students at the two universities will participate in campaigns that focus on child soldiers or international justice.

Reyes wants he experience to open eyes and start discussions on campus.

“I hope that those exposed to the campaign will ask questions,” Reyes said. “I hope that they develop a genuine curiosity about international affairs and realize that respect for an individual's life is of utmost importance.  We are part of a global community; therefore, the way that we view and act in this community affects everyone and everything else.”

The teams will compete for a chance to attend the June National IHL Youth Symposium in Washington, D.C. A selection committee from the American Red Cross national headquarters will select five campaigns from across the nation for the honor.

As spring approaches, team leaders expect to impact the campus through their plans. Student media will likely play a role in promoting the effort through Berkow’s role as editor of The Scout.

“Bradley can look forward to two awesome campaigns about International Humanitarian Law, run entirely by students,” Berkow said. “I’m a strong advocate for student-run-only organizations. I'm confident both teams will produce great works that will educate, enlighten and hopefully inspire the campus to take action.”