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Who's watching you?

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5 - Comment Assembly

Aims

To reflect on the various uses of satellites by governments and others.

Preparation and materials

  • Find some images of modern-day satellites.
  • Find some Sudanese music and have the means to play it at the end of the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Thousands of miles above us, our skies are full of unmanned satellites. These small, hi-tech spacecraft provide communications services, television and information about our world and beyond. Observation satellites take thousands of photographs of the Earth, which are used for both civilian and military purposes.

    On 29 December 2010, however, a project commenced that uses the power of observation satellites to help protect human rights.

  2. The Satellite Sentinel Project was founded by actor George Clooney and expert on Africa John Prendergast. The goal is to use surveillance and photographic satellites to document and record human rights abuses in the civil war between northern and southern Sudan, where conflict continues to occur.

    In this region, private armies and militias have a great deal of power and many burn villages, murdering and enslaving the villagers. The warlords know that as long as the global media knows nothing of the atrocities, they can continue. By using the unrivalled observational power of satellites, however, the Satellite Sentinel Project can provide evidence of atrocities and crimes against humanity to the media and the globe.

    The hope is that such evidence can be used to hold perpetrators to account and encourage political action to ensure there is a settlement that brings peace to the region. It is a long way off, but, by providing evidence of atrocities, the Satellite Sentinel Project takes away one of the great strengths of the militias. They have laid the groundwork for greater action and challenged the world to act on this violence.

  3. George Clooney is using his wealth, fame and influence to help solve a crisis and try to improve the lives of thousands of people. We, too, must use our gifts to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

  4. The question remains, though, as to who else could be watching us. Drone aircraft are now readily used to attack those deemed to be ‘enemies’ by major world powers and tiny drones can be purchased fairly easily by individuals.

  5. We also live with CCTV all around us. This is used to cut crime, but it does mean that many of us are being recorded for much of the time we spend outside of our homes as we go about living our lives.

Time for reflection

Most people are happy for an anonymous person to be watching over us when we are out and about, and few would decry the project George Clooney has set up to help the situation in Sudan, but where do we draw the line? Also, when do we need to bear this in mind – does it change our behaviour?

For Church schools
Christians believe that God is watching over us at all times. Does this knowledge modify the way we act towards other people or is it a wake-up call sometimes, helping us to see the need to restore broken relationships at difficult times?

Music

Some Sudanese music.

Publication date: December 2013   (Vol.15 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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