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Twelve-hour vigil to raise awareness for Syria

| Thursday, April 10, 2014

Students will pledge to give up their shut-eye this Friday to learn about the crisis in Syria, to raise money to help Catholic Relief Services (CRS) bring aid to those in and around Syria and to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering, junior Sharia Smith said.

Sleepless for Syria, an event organized by the Solidarity with Syria Coalition, will take place from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. The Solidarity with Syria Coalition is a committee comprised of representatives from various student organizations and individual members.

“I think what’s so cool about what we’re working on right now is that this was something started by Matt, myself and other students just at the beginning of the year when we really realized that this was an issue that was striking a chord with us and that we were concerned with,” Smith said.

Smith said the Solidarity with Syria Coalition provides its members with an opportunity to have conversations about the pressing issues affecting Syria and enables them to act through the planning committee.

Junior Matthew Caponigro said since the unrest began in 2011, the Syrian civil war has killed over 140,000 people, stranded over 4.5 million Syrians without homes inside the country and forced over 2.5 million refugees to flee to countries surrounding Syria. Factions from both the government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes, consequently affecting Syria’s innocent civilians caught in crossfire, he said.

An inter-faith prayer will kick off the night, Caponigro said. He said Fr. Daniel Groody, associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality, and Imam Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic studies and peace building at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, will offer prayers to commence the vigil.

Caponigro said Groody also will speak about some of his experiences on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation that observed the situation of Syrian refugees in fall 2012.

Caponigro said a living rosary will take place at midnight, during which participants will hold candles to represent each bead and place the lit candles on the ground at the front of the group to represent the group’s continued prayers as the participants enter an hour of silence.

Throughout the night, hourly reflections will feature guest speakers and their stories, as well as readings from the Bible and the Quran that pertain to traveling populations and displaced citizens, Caponigro said.

Manuel Rocha, a senior involved with GlobeMed, will talk about of some of the health issues in refugee camps that plague Syrian refugees in particular, Caponigro said.

Caponigro said Jennifer Betz, the Midwest coordinator for CRS, will present on the organization and its work with refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, including the education programs they offer displaced children and the medical services they provide.

The event will also feature musical performances from various artists such as Ameer Armaly, a graduate student who will play the traditional Levantine oud, which is a precursor to the guitar, Caponigro said. He said Notre Dame alumnus and local singer-songwriter Peter J. Hochstedler will also be performing during Sleepless for Syria.

The Center for Social Concerns, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Campus Ministry, World Hunger Coalition, Peace Fellowship ND, Human Rights ND, Red Cross Club of ND, GlobeMed, CRS Student Ambassadors, St. Edward’s Hall, Duncan Hall, Pasquerilla West Hall, Keough Hall and Sorin College are co-sponsoring the event.

Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine will provide food for the benefit dinner, which will include midardara, hummus, falafel and baba ghanoush, Smith said. Studebagels will also provide breakfast the next morning, she added.

Smith said Sleepless for Syria not only brings the Notre Dame community together but also Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College and the entire South Bend community to stand in solidarity with Syrians.

Caponigro said people can donate either at the event or online through Notre Dame’s online student shop. He said the goal of Sleepless for Syria is to raise at least $1,500.

The planning committee was able to cover all the operating costs due to the support of the many co-sponsors and local businesses, so every penny earned will go towards the CRS, Caponigro said. Smith said the event had a large potential for fundraising and for drawing attention to the crisis.

“Every drop in the bucket counts; when we pool it together it really makes an impact,” Smith said. “It gives me hope that my one little act can join with everyone else’s.”

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About Wei Lin

Wei Lin currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. He served as the Photo Editor on the 2014-2015 Editorial Board. He is a senior Accountancy, Economics, and Chinese triple major living in Knott Hall. He hails from the borough of Queens in New York City.

Contact Wei