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Syrian crisis sparks activism

Charlie Ducey | Monday, September 9, 2013

In response to Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting to promote peace in Syria, Notre Dame community leaders galvanized on-campus participation throughout the day on Saturday.

Junior Matthew Caponigro, a member of the Notre Dame Peace Fellowship, explained the importance of Notre Dame’s reaction to the papal declaration for a day of peace and prayer.

“It’s especially important that so many people were involved at Notre Dame because Pope Francis called for this day of prayer on the feast day of Our Lady, in whose honor our university is founded,” Caponigro said.

The centrality of Saint Mary permeated the event.

“Opening prayer took place beneath the outstretched arms of the gilded statue of Mary atop the golden dome, and for closing prayer we met again under the auspice of Mother Mary at the Grotto,” Caponigro said.

Caponigro said the fasting portion of Saturday’s events, beginning with a morning prayer at the steps of the Main Building at 10 a.m., was a highlight for participants.

“Fasting acts as a first step and leads us to solidarity, as it helps us to empathize with the 120,000 refugees in Jordan uprooted by the conflict and the millions of internally displaced persons in Syria without adequate nourishment,” he said.

The Eucharistic adoration, in which participants recognized Christ’s own suffering in a display of empathy, emphasized solidarity between the participants and those in Syria.

“The central message is building relationships and peace through encountering each other in this way,” Caponigro said.

The fasting period followed morning prayer and lasted until 4:30 p.m., at which point participants from across the campus gathered at the Grotto to offer prayers for peace.

Senior Christopher Torres, secretary for the Militia of the Immaculata, said that prayer is about more than recitation.

“God gives us unique opportunities in which He offers us graces, a moment when we can ally ourselves with the suffering people in the world, and I felt that I could help participate in that saving action through prayer,” he said.

As part of the Pope’s call to peace, Torres said prayer can be used to facilitate action for peace in Syria.

“Hopefully, the hearts of the government officials are inspired to move toward dialogue rather than violence,” he said. “We must value the people and their lives. I hope for the consolidation of those who are struggling and facing death, and I pray that God consoles and protects them.”

Caponigro said institutions on the Notre Dame campus are already participating in this call to peaceful diplomatic resolutions.

“The Kroc Institute is researching the possibilities for peace in Syria,” he said. “The situation in Syria is still incredibly convoluted. That is why it is especially important to turn of prayer because the politics are so complicated – that way we can keep in mind the face of the Syrian people, and pray that any diplomatic move operates within that perspective.”