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GuluWalk attracts diverse crowd

Maddie Hanna | Tuesday, October 25, 2005

They were thousands of miles away from the turmoil, but the 350 Notre Dame students and members of the South Bend community who participated in Sunday’s GuluWalk on Notre Dame campus showed strong solidarity with the children of northern Uganda.

“This really was a special event not only because of how many people turned out to walk, but also because of the diversity of the crowd,” co-organizer and senior Peter Quaranto said. “It was truly a community event.”

The Notre Dame/South Bend GuluWalk was just one of more than 43 different GuluWalks that took place last weekend in cities around the world in efforts to raise awareness of the plight faced by northern Ugandan children.

“Today we are walking to tell their story and demand international action to end this war,” co-organizer and junior Lindsay Hero said in a speech at the walk. “Today, we are part of the largest international mobilization ever for these children and their families. Let us walk with resolve and courage.”

The northern Ugandan children are the victims of what Quaranto called “one of the world’s most neglected and forgotten humanitarian crises,” a 20-year conflict that has forced over 30,000 children as young as six to become child soldiers and sexual slaves.

“These kids, no different than those who study down the street at Perle Elementary or Clay High School, are forced to kill and maim people, even sometimes their own families, in the most brutal fashion,” Quaranto wrote on the Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN) Web site.

Uganda-CAN is a campaign of Ugandans and Americans working for peace in northern Uganda. Quaranto founded the organization five months ago after he spent last spring studying at Mak-erere University in Kampala, Uganda, through the School for International Training.

He called the event “a great step forward in the longer walk by global civil society to end the war in northern Uganda.”

“The feedback was all positive,” Quaranto said. “The crowd was electric, inspired by seeing the large numbers and feeling the passion.”

Quaranto said there were more participants than expected, especially since the weather was less than ideal and the walk occurred on the last day of fall break.

“The turnout was an amazing surprise and a real hopeful sign that people, when they learn about what’s happening in northern Uganda, do care and want to act,” Quaranto said. “I think our outreach and publicity strategies, particularly targeting the wider South Bend community, were crucial.”

The wider South Bend community to which Quaranto referred included Indiana University South Bend and Penn High School students.

Junior Michael Rossmann, a GuluWalk participant, said he thought Notre Dame students had a much greater awareness of the situation in northern Uganda than the general population.

“There seem to be many connections between Notre Dame and Uganda, whether that is from ND students studying or doing service there or from the Holy Cross presence there,” he said.

Like Quaranto, Rossmann studied in Uganda last spring. He said he decided to participate to both raise awareness and support Uganda-CAN.

“Not only should Notre Dame care about the situation in northern Uganda because of our many connections with the country, but also as a Catholic school, we should feel called to try to do something about this incredible injustice,” Rossmann said.

The walk was sponsored by Uganda-CAN as well as the Center for Social Concerns, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Africa Faith and Justice Network and Indiana University South Bend’s Political Science Club.