As the season’s first snow blanketed campus – and as many minds were on the end of the semester and upcoming finals – more than400 students, faculty and staff from the South Bend tri-campus community (Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross) converged in Notre Dame’s athletic convocation center to raise their collective voices for peace. These 400 students came together because they believed that the possibility of violence 7,000 miles away in Sudan was worth their time and attention.
Sudan is at a crossroads. In early January, the people of southern Sudan will decide in a referendum whether to stay united with the north, or to secede and form their own country. After a peace agreement in 2005 ended decades of war between the north and south, this decision could either lead to a new path of peace, or back to violence and war.
At Notre Dame, the peace rally was the collaborative work of student government, several institutes on campus, and the men’s lacrosse and basketball teams. The hope was not only to raise awareness about the urgency of the situation in Sudan but also to engage the Notre Dame community in a meaningful response. In addition to the rally – which featured a compelling line-up of speakers and a viewing of CRS’ “What Would You Do?” video – a 3-on-3 “Playing for Peace” basketball tournament was organized for the day and over 100 teams participated. In the words of Patrick McCormick, one of the student organizers, “we hope to turn our arenas and our stadiums into stages to speak for justice.”
The students also wrote a petition, , indicating Notre Dame’s commitment to the people of Sudan and urging President Obama to stay engaged. As of today, more than 1,100 people have added their signatures to that petition. Emmanuel Gore, a Sudanese graduate student at Notre Dame, said, “The Sudanese are grasping for a glimmer of hope to cling to, and to know that Notre Dame professors and students are taking action to generate awareness gives us hope.”
It gave me hope, too. I was fortunate to be able to go to South Bend and participate in the rally, and it was incredibly energizing to be in an arena full of committed students who had come together to play and pray and work for peace.
Check out this great video from the event.
Jessica Howell, program and advocacy officer, is based in the CRS-Midwest regional office in Chicago.
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