“I grew up eating one meal a day,” says southern Sudan native Emmanuel Gore, a graduate student in the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. “I got displaced with my family to Khartoum. We left my father behind.”
Gore detailed his life story and explained the history of conflict in Sudan to hundreds of students Dec. 4 at Notre Dame’s “Stand with Sudan Peace Rally,” where the audience was asked to pray, advocate and give to promote peace in the war-torn country.
A 2005 peace accord ended two decades of civil war that claimed about 2 million lives in Sudan. Under that agreement, people from south Sudan will vote in a referendum on independence on Jan. 9, 2011. Many fear this referendum could ignite a new war.
“There is little time left to avert a humanitarian tragedy in Sudan,” says Jerry Powers, director of Catholic peace building studies at the Kroc Institute. “As in many other places, Notre Dame has close ties to an incredible Catholic community in Sudan. As one of the most important non-governmental actors, the Catholic Church, with the support of Catholic Relief Services, has launched an unprecedented effort to promote peace as the referendum nears. Notre Dame is fortunate to be able to be engaged with the Church in Sudan and in other of the world’s most intractable conflicts.”
In October, a delegation representing the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops visited Notre Dame to reach out to the Catholic community in the United States. In response, the Notre Dame Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution expressing the student body’s solidarity with the people of Sudan and urging the University to “express its support for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement” and to “call attention to the urgency of securing a sustainable, just peace for all Sudanese.”
“What we wanted to do was think together about how we could harness the Notre Dame athletic brand for social change,” says Patrick McCormick, Student Government’s vice president for social concerns. “We wanted to speak for justice in a way that Notre Dame so often does as the moral voice of higher education in the United States.”
“The Southern Sudanese are grasping for a glimmer of hope,” Gore says, “and will highly appreciate to know that Notre Dame students are thinking about them, and they are taking appropriate actions to influence and generate awareness among their peers.”
Along with Student Government, the rally was hosted by the Notre Dame men’s basketball and lacrosse teams, Center for Social Concerns, Campus Ministry, Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, Adidas and Play Like a Champion Today ™ Educational Series. It included speeches from Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., and several Africans who came to the United States to play college and professional basketball, as well as “Playing for Peace,” a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
“In the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide,” Gore reminds us, “President Clinton adopted a statement of remorse…‘Never again will the international community passively observe another occurrence of genocide without doing something.’ Well, here is your chance to do something. Not often do you get a chance to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
Click here to sign a letter and petition to President Obama asking for continued support of Sudanese peace keeping efforts.