Raid Cross – are you game?

تم النشر: 27 سبتمبر 2006 0:00 CET

Future world citizens and soldiers learn the rules of war with an innovative new tool.

Young men and women struggle to pass a checkpoint. Ahead of them are obstacles, including minefields and roadblocks. The young people are clearly identified with bibs and badges. They talk calmly to the soldiers who aim guns at them.

“We are Red Crescent volunteers. We have come to help the wounded.”

Watching their steps to avoid the dangers, they slowly make their way towards their goal, a group of people affected by the conflict who need humanitarian assistance.

It could be anywhere, anytime, in a conflict situation, but this time it is only a role play, set in the imaginary countryof Haddar, which is being attacked by neighbouring Deldar. The young people are volunteers from the Moroccan Red Crescent who are being trained in Raid Cross, a game designed to increase their understanding of humanitarian issues in conflict. The ‘mines’ are made of paper and the ‘roadblocks’ are nothing more than overturned chairs. The ‘soldiers’ a re played by Red Crescent volunteers.

Not child’s play

Raid Cross was developed by the French Red Cross and the French-speaking section of the Belgian Red Cross, and is based on a role play written by Antoine Grand, a Belgian volunteer who was also a boy scout. He developed the activity to introduce young scouts to the basic principles of international humanitarian law, and then gave the game to the Belgian Red Cross. The two National Societies developed the game together. It is being spread throughout the world after an agreement was signed between the French and Belgian Red Cross, the International Federation, the ICRC and the World Organization of the Scout Movement in April 2005.

Raid Cross teaches through seven posts or scenarios that focus on prisoners of war, the treatment of wounded people, combatants, humanitarian assistance, military decision-making or accountability in the aftermath of conflict. Up to 90 people can play the game at once.

Sarah Viale, dissemination officer for the French Red Cross, has been involved in Raid Cross since before it took its present form. “It was quite long and designed specifically for the scouts,” she says, “but the idea was good. We simply adapted it to the Red Cross Red Crescent.

“The large, international scout network is a great venue to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law. Raid Cross also helps National Societies and national scout organizations work together and develop their national partnerships.”

Raid Cross has been downloaded in English and French from FedNet, the International Federation’s extranet, by Red Cross Red Crescent youth from all parts of the world, and many national scout organizations are contacting National Societies to start playing. Raid Cross has been played in countries as diverse as Armenia, Mauritania and the United Kingdom. Translations into Arabic and Spanish are in the pipeline.

Viale says the true value of the game is that it has an effect every time it is played. “The players enjoy the game and always learn something from it,” she says. “It has the same success everywhere, even when it’s played in other countries and cultures.” Benjamin, 16, who played the game in France, says, “I couldn’t see war in the same way [afterwards]. It doesn’t only mean attacking, killing and defending yourself. It means protecting civilians too and taking care of the wounded, even if they are enemies.”

The game

At each of the seven posts, participants play different roles, such as combatants, civilians and humanitarian workers. The activities are designed to illustrate the different rules and to show the players their practical application.

Players do not need to be specialists in international humanitarian law. Any trained volunteer can be a game leader. There is not one particular profile for participants either. In France, Raid Cross is mainly played with young adults aged 12 to 18. But this can vary from one culture and country to another. The idea is that children and young adults of today need to learn the laws of war because they are the future citizens, soldiers and world leaders. Raid Cross teaches them to protect life and human dignity in times of armed conflict and, by extension, in all their experiences.

When the training session is over, it is time for the Moroccan Red Crescent volunteers to test their skills. The first players are participants at the Fifth Middle East and North Africa Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, held in Marrakesh in May 2006. “Sir, sir, stop please, you are stepping on mines!” Confused conference participants, on their way to a coffee break, suddenly become aware of papers on the ground which read “Danger! Mines!”

Participants start lifting their feet and watching their step. Some are asked to put on Red Crescent bibs and carry food and water across the field. They are then stopped by guards: “Sir, do you have a badge? Where are you going?”

After passing the minefield at the humanitarian Assistance post, conference participants encounter an artillery position, where they are asked to become soldiers and attack targets with tennis balls. Many civilians and even humanitarian workers are knocked over.
Participants are shown what they have done: “Do you think a hospital should have been attacked?” Although the people are rushing for their coffee, the game engages them and many stay for a while, playing on and talking to the game leaders from the Moroccan Red Crescent youth section.

The volunteers also organize Raid Cross demonstrations in Marrakesh’s busy Jamal el Fna square. In the afternoon, when the heat fades, the square fills with vendors, medicine men, storytellers, snake charmers and Red Crescent volunteers inviting people to their activities. The volunteers involve schoolchildren and passers-by in activities such as learning first aid and road safety, and, for the first time, playing Raid Cross. Schoolchildren line up to become soldiers at the artillery position, listening attentively as the volunteers explain the rules of war before stepping up to the front, armed with tennis balls. Aiming carefully, they throw balls toward an image on a plastic bottle, hoping to hit a military target.

The trial

The game ends with a trial or general debriefing. Although the players’ understanding increases while they are playing the game, where they learn never to leave a wounded person on the battlefield, and to avoid hitting civilian targets when they are soldiers, Viale says the trial is where you can really see the effects of the game.
All game leaders are arrested and the players accuse them of not following the rules of war. Then the players search for suitable punishments. Next the teams get the chance to defend their own actions. Often they say that they felt pressured into making wrong decisions.

At the end of the discussion, they understand that a trial is necessary — they might have left a wounded person on the battlefield or hit a civilian target. Each team is judged as a whole, to avoid targeting individuals. Sarah Viale says she only knows of one case where a team was not sentenced at the end of the trial. In this case, when asked why they committed war crimes, the team replied: “When we arrived this morning, you told us we had no choice — we had to fight. But we are just children and it is against the rules to make children into soldiers.” This team was pardoned and sent to an ICRC rehabilitation centre for child soldiers.

At the end of each post, the players are given puzzle pieces. After the trial, they use their puzzle pieces to rebuild the country of Haddar. This is the final reward for understanding and respecting international humanitarian law.

This article appeared in the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine.