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Darfur campaign works to effect change

Bridget Keating | Monday, November 20, 2006

While LaFortune serves daily as the hub of campus, on Friday, the student center played host to an effort toward world peace.

A 6-by-4-yard flag with more than 1,000 signatures and a large “Save Darfur” was hung in the main atrium – one piece of the Darfur Project headed by the Student Senate Social Concerns committee. The prominent location put the global genocide crisis at the forefront of the Notre Dame community.

But that support will go beyond a day’s work. Students behind the campaign are making sure the message gets to those who can effect change in Washington, D.C.

This week, the Social Concerns Committee will mail the flag, letters and signatures to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Foreign Relations committee chairman. This 30-year senator has worked to promote peace, as shown in his Nunn-Lugar program which “deactivated more than 6,800 nuclear warheads that were once aimed at the United States,” according to his official Web site.

“Lugar was a natural choice as head of Foreign Relations and being from Indiana,” said Chris Meister, a freshman on the Social

Concerns committee who

brought the issue to the committee agenda.

Encouraged by similar movements, the committee chose to send the massive symbol to the U.S. Senate.

“The size and striking green color of peace, solidarity and justice,” Meister said, “is for sheer physical presence – as it is bigger than most dorm rooms. It will make an impact and let Congress know that Notre Dame demands action against this crisis.”

According to literature provided to students signing the flag, the United States has given the label

“genocide” to the slaughter of

nearly 400,000 men, women and children since 2003, but the United Nations has not. The Janjaweed militia, the literature said, devastates villages removing all forms and sources of life including killing its residents and destroying homes, food, crops and livestock.

“It is a vitally important project to make Notre Dame aware of this ongoing tragedy,” said Sheena Plamoottil, who chairs the Social Concerns committee. “The strong response shows that we have made progress that we can build upon.”

The committee spent time collecting signatures at dining halls and in LaFortune. Meister said.

“Giving money is nice to do and appreciated,” he said, “but signing this flag and becoming educated makes more of an impact on and educate each student.”

Moving beyond this campus, the committee would like to see attention brought to this issue in the media, Congress and the United Nations.

“If Americans saw the images and realized the atrocities being committed today, they would be shocked and disturbed,” Meister said. “A governmental body not acknowledging this is condoning it.”

Educational events last week – in addition to the flag hanging – included Thursday night’s Dillon Hall Green Milkshake Mass, in honor of promoting peace in Darfur. The committee encourages students who were not able to sign to contact their representatives through darfur.a-bar.com and savedarfur.org.

“At Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for,” Meister said. “What about the people of Darfur? They are thankful not to be killed. This needs to change immediately.”