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Africa-focused lecture series ends

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, November 20, 2003

Campus Ministry’s four-week series analyzing social justice issues in Africa as advocated by U2’s lead singer Bono concluded Wednesday evening.

The series, “Gospel According to Bono,” recognized the need for greater awareness of AIDS and the growing debt facing Africa. It followed on the heals of a visit by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in September and is part of a larger conference on Africa that will conclude in February in Nigeria.

“I think it’s time,” said Chandra Johnson, assistant to the University president and coordinator of the Obasanjo visit and the future Notre Dame student visit to Nigeria. “There are voices on campus that understand the significance of Africa, and these voices, from faculty to students, present this to the University so that we’re not afraid of discussing Africa, the debt or any of the problems there.”

The four-part “Gospel According to Bono” has continued the focus on the plight of Africa by raising awareness of the issues of debt relief, AIDS and the effects of both on the continent. The last part of the series held yesterday evening, called “Pray with Africa,” featured traditional African prayers. Previous weeks’ events included a faith-based interpretation of Bono’s music. However, the last two weeks have placed emphasis on the problems facing Africa and Bono’s own fund Debt Aids Trade and Africa.

Becca Saunders and Frank Santoni, leaders of the project, said they intended to tackle issues of faith as well as an event to raise awareness and money for AIDS research and debt cancellation.

“We consciously followed on the curtails of the Call to Solidarity With Africa”, Saunders said. “It’s been on campus lately, and we wanted to follow up on that.”

Both projects have heavily incorporated student involvement. The organizers for the Bono series have started a hall competition, with half of the proceeds from the fundraiser going to the Jubilee Network, an organization for which Bono is spokesperson that works for debt cancellation in Africa. The other half will go to the Holy Cross missions in Africa.

“The turnout to the events has been 75 to 100 people a week, and during the ‘Drop the Debt Coffeehouse’ the third week, we raised nearly $200,” Saunders said. “People have said it … has really made a difference”.

Emily Osborne, assistant professor of history whose research focuses on African studies, said she has also seen a positive student reaction after the “Call to Solidarity to Africa.”

“There is a definite interest in Africa. We live in a global world; some of the most serious challenges facing humans is in Africa,” Osborn said.

Osborne also mentioned other sources that teach students about the complexities of the situation in Africa.

“The African Student Association’s principle goal is to highlight Africa as a place of concern, and there is a systematic attempt to expose people to African culture,” she said.

Professor Osborne said she wants events such as the “Gospel According to Bono” and the activities of the ASA, such as their concert “By Grace” that will take place at Stepan Center Saturday evening, to highlight aspects of African problems that are not always presented.

“I would like students to go to events like the “Gospel according to Bono” and get over how the press represents the African continent,” she said. “Looking at Africa, we learn about the resilience of all people and how people can creatively make due with limited resources.”

Saunders said that she hopes students still continue to maintain an interest in Africa’s problems.

“The event is more to raise awareness than to raise enough money to cancel the entire debt,” she said. “After the project ends, we hope that with all the press everyone realizes the huge responsibility by Americans to pay attention to the problems in Africa. It is the defining issue of our generation and the goals are not unattainable.”