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Tournament, rally promote peace in South Sudan

Mel Flanagan | Sunday, November 13, 2011

Playing for Peace continued its efforts to promote peace in South Sudan at the second annual basketball tournament and Peace & Pep Rally held before the men’s basketball season opener against Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.

The rally, which emphasized the continued need for assistance in Sudan, took place following two basketball tournaments — a three-on-three student tournament and a youth tournament for South Bend community members.

Last year’s rally and tournament were the opening events of the Playing for Peace initiative.

Social concerns chair, junior Ellen Carroll, said this year’s rally shows Notre Dame’s continued support of the people of Sudan.

“Last year our Playing for Peace tournament and our Stand with Sudan rally was the largest advocacy event for a peaceful referendum in Sudan of any school in America,” she said. “This year we gather together again to show we’re staying with the people of Sudan.”

The rally occurred at a critical time for the country of Sudan, Carroll said. United States senators will debate cutting the international aid budget Monday and Tuesday, a move that could greatly affect South Sudan.

Many students signed a petition to President Obama, asking him to continue to support the Sudanese people as they rebuild their nation.

Although they could not be present due to the game that followed the rally, men’s basketball players Tim Abromaitis and Joey Brooks opened the rally with a prayer.

“Join our voices with their voices and our hearts with their hearts in a plea for peace,” Abromaitis and Brooks said in unison.

During the rally, Carroll played a video update from Catholic Relief Services on the situation in Sudan. In the video, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan described the precarious state of the country.

“We do not want a return to war,” Kussala said. “We are at a fragile first stage. We need your prayers, we need your voice, not only before God but before your government officials.”

Ring Agwick, a University employee who emigrated from South Sudan to South Bend, also spoke to students and thanked them for their continued support.

Agwick said the Sudanese people would be touched to witness a crowd speaking out on their behalf.

“If not for you guys and your country, there wouldn’t be no country called South Sudan today,” he said. “We’re really fortunate for what you have been doing.”

Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs for the athletic department, said the tournament and rally were intended as a follow-up to last year’s Playing for Peace events.

Dugan said the purpose of the day was to update the students on recent Playing for Peace events, such as Dugan’s summer trip to Sudan, and also to call attention to the current situation in the country.

“South Sudan is now a free and independent country but there’s a tremendous amount of violence taking place along the borders,” he said. “We want to make everyone aware that we need to stay with Sudan.”

The men’s lacrosse team, who helped spearhead the initial Playing for Peace tournament and rally, has continued to be involved with this year’s events. Freshman lacrosse player John Scioscia said the initiative is a great way for the entire campus, as well as the South Bend community, to develop connections.

“I think it raises great awareness through a sport,” he said. “Bringing people together to play a sport raises teamwork. Everyone works together and it supports great ideas that are the exact opposite of war.”

Carroll said Playing for Peace has already begun planning events for the spring, including a lacrosse tournament and a basketball tournament for community members that will take place at the Martin Luther King Center in South Bend.

“The tagline this year is ‘From South Bend to South Sudan’ so that’s the goal, to keep holding events that help both Sudan and our community,” she said.