A fundraiser to support the removal of unexploded munitions will be held on Wednesday, June 15th at the Target Auditorium of the historic Open Book Building in downtown Minneapolis. Starting at 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., the event is to raise support for two organizations: the Mines Advisory Group and Legacies of War, with a particular focus on efforts in Southeast Asia.
Last year the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions went into effect calling for an end to the use, sale, and transfer of cluster bombs, which continue to affect countries long after conflicts are over. In Laos, for example, over 30% of the countryside remains contaminated with bombs that can still explode and terrorize villages over 36 years since the end of the war.
The work of the Mines Advisory Group has been featured in award-winning films such as the documentary Bomb Harvest that showed the harrowing experience of removing bombs from rural villages in Laos.
The Mines Advisory Group is a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization that clears the remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide. Since 1989, MAG has worked in 35 countries. They are a co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for their work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which culminated in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
Elizabeth Tolzmann, a board member of the US Branch of the Mines Advisory Group said “Similar weapons have been used in Cambodia, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, Africa , Iraq and Afghanistan, yet there are few resources countries have to remove them safely. We can do more.” Tolzmann, a Lao-American immigration lawyer in the Twin Cities, became involved a year ago as a volunteer.
The fundraiser will include interactive displays and a final look at photos and art from the acclaimed Legacies of War: Refugee Nation exhibit at Intermedia Arts in October, including hand-drawn images by refugees that were pivotal in the discovery of the Secret War in Laos and the bombings.
“These illustrations are a historic example of the intersection between art, history and international policy,” said Bryan Thao Worra, a Minneapolis-based Lao American writer.
“When the villagers drew these, they had no words to describe all they experienced in the bombings, but it led to a chain reaction of events that ended the bombing in Laos and to today’s efforts to eliminate cluster bombs around the world,” Thao Worra added. “This will be the very last time these are seen in Minnesota for years as they go on tour now.”
Dancers from the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota will also perform briefly in support of the work of the Mines Advisory Group and Legacies of War. They were extensively involved in the Legacies of War: Refugee Nation exhibit last fall and have worked actively to engage the community.
Legacies of War executive director, Channapha Khamvongsa, will speak about her recent visit to Laos on the progress of UXO removal effortsin Laos and the approaching one-year anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Tickets are a suggested $20 donation although no donations are turned away and additional donations are encouraged. Refreshments and an international array of appetizers will be served during the evening and there will also be a silent auction. You can visit the Mines Advisory Group at www.maginternational.org and Legacies of War at www.legaciesofwar.org .
The Open Book building is the home to some of Minnesota’s nationally recognized literary non-profits including the Loft Literary Center, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Graywolf Press. It is located at 1011 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis. www.openbook.org