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Students to rally for peace in Sudan

Megan Doyle | Friday, December 3, 2010

Notre Dame students will unite on campus for peace in Sudan on Saturday during a rally that will feature University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh following the Playing for Peace 3-on-3 basketball tournament.


Social concerns chair Pat McCormick said the rally will combine the visibility of Notre Dame athletics with the University’s moral concern for social justice.


“We deeply believe that as the greatest Catholic university in the world we have not only the ability but the responsibility to harness all the means at our disposal, but particularly the Notre Dame athletic brand, for social change,” McCormick said.


The 3-on-3 basketball tournament — sponsored by the men’s basketball team, men’s lacrosse team and student government — will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Joyce Center, and the “Stand with Sudan” peace rally will begin at 12 p.m. in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.


“From the student government perspective and from the athletic perspective, we really only think this could have been possible because of the strength of the student body and the level of engagement of our students,” McCormick said.


The rally will include remarks from professional basketball players Ed Bona and Luol Deng, Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey, Notre Dame men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan, and a video message from a Notre Dame graduate student from Sudan.


“Think of two people in Sudan, the north and the south. Both of those really want peace. Peace is the overarching concern of everybody in Africa today because there has been so much unrest and so much war,” Hesburgh said. “I think it is high time we started working very hard for peace throughout the continent, and I think it is possible.”


Hesburgh visited Sudan more than 15 years ago and remembers driving deep into the country during his trip.


“I got a feeling for the place, and it is like most of Africa. Every country in Africa seems to have a problem,” Hesburgh said. “[Sudan’s] problem is are they going to join north or south, or are they going to develop separately … The conflict always boils down to the same thing, and that is access to resources.”


The northern and southern parts of Sudan have been torn by civil war for more than 50 years. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) formally ended civil war in 2005 and scheduled a referendum for Jan. 9, 2011. The Sudanese will then vote on whether Southern Sudan will secede.


The peace agreement called for six years of democratic reforms and national elections leading up to the referendum. The vote was intended to be a peaceful process, but both sides began to stockpile weapons as the referendum approached.


On Oct. 5, a delegation from the Sudanese Conference of Catholic bishops visited campus to ask Notre Dame. as a Catholic university. to raise awareness about potential for mass violence in Sudan.


“[The bishops’] appeal was to the Catholic community and asked Catholics in the United States to remember the referendum and do whatever we can to call for international attention to Sudan,” McCormick said.


Shortly after the bishops’ visit, Notre Dame’s Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution pledging support for the people of Sudan. The Student Senate also sponsored an online petition to be sent to President Obama closer to the referendum.


“What is so exciting about the petition is that it gives students the opportunity to lead, to show that they understand the moral dimensions of this issue and to call the world’s attention to it,” McCormick said.


The petition asked policy makers to make preventing violence in Sudan a priority as January draws closer, McCormick said.


Director of men’s lacrosse operations Kevin Dugan said the basketball and lacrosse teams got involved because they wanted to do more for campus than ask students to show up at games.


“The two most powerful things at Notre Dame, the two things people are most passionate about, are athletics and Catholic social thought,” Dugan said. “When you bring the two of those things together, you can capture the spirit of Notre Dame in a special way.”


The department of athletics harnessed the Notre Dame brand to advertise the event. The Playing for Peace logo, a peace sign embedded in a shamrock, appeared on 2,000 t-shirts to be sold for $5 on Saturday and 2,000 buttons to be distributed for free, Dugan said.


“We just want to see a sense of urgency. This peace accord is going to expire in January, and we will ask if we let apathy overwhelm us when we have the opportunity to do something,” Dugan said.

“All these different groups are coming together for what is unquestionably the most pressing social concerns need of the Church in this year.”


Men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan said he was excited to see the collaboration between the department of athletics and the student body on an issue of international importance.


“While student activism is a great part of this, the focus now needs to be on the events unfolding in Sudan and how our voices can contribute to the call for a peaceful and just solution to the problems that may arise with the expiration of the peace accord there,” Corrigan said.


Hesburgh said averting this conflict would pave the way for development in Sudan.


“Economic development will make good education a top priority, and with good education will come good jobs, and with good jobs will come good salaries,” Hesburgh said. “That is the only way we are going to get equality, by equality of opportunity.”