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Students walk for Darfur

Jenn Metz | Friday, March 30, 2007

About 60 students silently marched to the Main Building as the sun set Thursday night to raise awareness about the genocide occurring in Darfur.

The march, coordinated by the Student Senate Social Concerns committee as part of Darfur Week, included prayers and readings led by anthropology professor Father Patrick Gaffney and songs sung by members of the Glee Club.

The students were somber in their walk and struggled against the wind to keep their candles lit to serve as symbols of their effort and solidarity.

Chris Meister, a freshman involved with the Social Concerns committee, was one of the organizers of the event. After he took a seminar on religious violence last semester, Meister said he felt compelled to somehow get involved in ending genocide. He said a film shown in his seminar, “Hotel Rwanda,” inspired him to participate in these efforts.

“I’ll never forget … in the movie they said, ‘Once the Americans see the tragedy, they’ll be sure to act.’ And they didn’t,” Meister said. “The genocide is now in its fifth year and there’s nothing being done. Something needs to get started … this week can help get things going here.”

The United Nations estimated March 13 that “200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced from their homes since 2003.”

The goal of the march, Meister said, was to raise awareness by incorporating what he called an important element in the stoppage of genocide – prayer.

“We need to pray for these people to have the strength to go on,” he said. “[Prayer] is a powerful message of awareness.”

The participants held candles and marched the straight path from Main Circle to the Main Building, where they formed a circle in front of the statue of Jesus. Meister said the candles were a visible symbol of the effort to stop the genocide in Darfur.

Freshman Mary Daly marched for Darfur to support Meister, but also because of her involvement in Notre Dame Right to Life.

“It is important to take into account all aspects of life … to recognize the sanctity of life in all forms and places,” Daly said.

Gaffney began the ceremony, calling the gathering “a gesture of solidarity” meant to recognize the suffering and mourning experienced daily by the millions affected by the Darfur genocide.

“We need to try to stop this intractable problem and we express our solidarity by joining our minds and hearts together,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney read aloud from Bible readings and also read a prayer from a Darfuri woman and a reading from Isaiah, which he said should remind listeners to think of the messages of Holy Week, which commences Sunday.

Gaffney joined in the service because he said he has personally experienced these “sadly familiar problems” after living and working in Africa.

“We hope to make others aware and give others the opportunity to help … to show their concern, their anxiety about the situation and to show their hope for the future,” Gaffney said.

The circle of prayer gained members as the sun continued to set and the voices grew louder in song. The Glee Club led participants in “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” and “We Are Called.” The club sang the closing song, “Prayer for the Children,” which was followed by a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, during which participants held hands.