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Events promote increased awareness of Africa

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Students across campus have banded together to present Notre Dame with Africa Week, a few days of awareness designed to increase empathy for people in the continent.

People all too often react to the tragedies in Africa simply by handing over money, said junior Meghan Hanzlik, a member of the organizing committee.

“Solidarity doesn’t mean just reaching for your wallet,” said Hanzlik. “While there are so many areas in which the United States is strong enough to help Africa, there are other ways in which Africa can help the United States. Africa is so strong in faith, and it provides so many of the world’s priests and nuns.”

The mission statement of Africa Week expresses this desire to help the problems of Africa while raising appreciation of the continent’s many facets.

According to the statement, composed by member of Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), “With passion, leadership, and dedication of the clubs, we have created a week dedicated to raising awareness of the many, beautiful African cultures and the challenges that face this continent … It is the hope of the AFJN-Notre Dame chapter that other campuses around the United States will follow the example of the Notre Dame students in embracing and answering the ‘Call to Solidarity’ with Africa.”

Hanzlik spoke of the passion and dedication of all the student groups who have been working on Africa week. She felt that Notre Dame has exactly the right atmosphere to enable change.

“We feel that Notre Dame has such a passionate student body that if you put on the table the problems and issues that call us to action, people will take action,” she said.

She cited the example of DPAC’s presentation of the film “Hotel Rwanda,” which was prompted by efforts of the Sudan Steering Committee, as a recent awareness event. The film sold out at both showings.

Many events have been planned for Africa Week. On Sunday evening, luminaries were displayed on South Quad to bring celebrate and bring attention to the cause. Offerings were also made at dorm masses. On Monday evening, an African themed mass was held in the Keenan-Stanford Chapel. There was also a booth set up in front of O’Shaughnessy Hall from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at which students could either donate an old t-shirt or money in exchange for a “One Family: Africa Week” shirt. All monetary donations will support the Nomadic Kenya Education Fund, which requires only $500 to send a Kenyan person to high school. The clothes will be sent to African villages.

On Tuesday, the Sudan Steering Committee and the African Students Association (ASA) will hold a Sudan-Darfur Benefit Dinner at 6 p.m. in Coleman-Morse. The dinner will cost $5.

“We will be working with ASA to cook authentic African and Indian food,” said Patrick Corrigan, a member of the Sudan Steering Committee. “All proceeds go to the Genocide Intervention Fund, which donates to African Union soldiers who work as a peace-keeping force in Darfur.”

Kim Mazyck of Catholic Relief Services will give the lecture “Africa Rising, Hope and Healing! A Campaign for Change in Africa” on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Sorin Room of LaFortune. On Thursday, South Dining Hall will feature “Taste of Africa Cuisine” at dinner.

On Friday, M. Karana Dharma of the Africa Working Institute will present “Supply-Side Humanitarianism and the Salience of Indigenous Approaches to Peace-Building in the Democratic of Congo” at 1 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center.

The week will conclude on Saturday with Afrika Nite, an event sponsored by the African Students Association. Afrika Nite will feature Dances Across Africa, drama narration and music. The event will take place at Washington Hall.

Emily Chin, a member of ASJN, expressed her thoughts on the week.

“Basically, our goal is to educate Notre Dame students to the issues plaguing the African continent and also to expose them to its beauty and culture,” she said. “It’s really easy to get involved, and we’re hoping that everyone can participate. We have a lot of letter-writing campaigns, including to Senator Lugar, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.”

Besides AFJN, ASA and the Sudan Steering Committee, the many sponsors of Africa Week include Amnesty International, Campus Mini-stry, Class Councils, Food Services, the Institute for Church Life, ISSA, the Kellogg Institute, Mendoza College of Business, Office of the President, Student Activities, Student Government, SUB and the Theology Department.