Thursday, October 06, 2005

Students recognize genocide

The Phoenix - News
Issue: 10/5/05
By Emily Lange

For decades, students have studied and remembered the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust. Museums and memorials show the devastation millions of Jewish people suffered and carry the message of "never again," to announce that humanity will never again stand idle as members other human beings are slaughtered by the masses. But in Darfur, it is happening again and it is happening now.

Darfur is a region of Sudan, a northeastern country in Africa that has been plagued by ethnic cleansing through acts of government-sponsored genocide since 2002. At least 400,000 poor, black Muslim farmers have been murdered by the ruling Arab people in this predominantly Arab state.

On Oct. 6, Loyola will participate in a nationwide fast to display solidarity in the cause against the genocide in Darfur.

At a leadership conference for students involved in national movements for peace, Patrick Schmitt, a senior from Georgetown University and member of the national Hillel Association, decided to to hold a fast in remembrance of the people affected by the genocide in Darfur.

"The fast is a great way to engage students and begin fundraising to give money for relief in the effort." Schmitt said. "One of the difficulties of understanding genocide is that it is unimaginable to know what 400,000 lost lives looks like. It really depends on [facts to be presented] to push the enormity of the situation and illustrate how devastating it really is."

Students from LUC who attended the conference approached Hillel director, Patti Ray, about bringing the Darfur fast to Loyola. The event is sponsored by University Ministry, Hillel, the Muslim Students Association and the Hindu Students Organization, and is co-sponsored by the Hunger Week Committee, Loyola Anti-War Network, Black Cultural Center, Turkish Intercultural Club, Loyola Students Against Sweatshops and the Middle Eastern Students Association.

Loyola, one of many schools across the country participating in the fast, provided information on ways people can make a difference in Darfur. The students offered information about the situation in Darfur and provided information to write to government officials.

Some student organizations, such as LAWN, are hosting their own events in collaboration with the Darfur Fast Planning Committee. On Wednesday morning, Oct. 5, LAWN performed a "die-in" to demonstrate the deaths that have resulted from the genocide in Darfur. The students gathered outside Damen Hall and laid motionless on the ground for 30 minutes. Other students handed out fliers, which sent the message that one "cannot ignore a genocide."

Junior Bashir Faddoul, president of MESA, hopes that students will take the fast seriously.

"Everyone can make a difference," Faddoul said. "We have an opportunity to send a powerful message, to let people know that we remember."

On Oct. 6, all are invited to a presentation in Simpson's Multi-Purpose Room at 5:15 p.m., where participants will break their fast together with a cross-cultural dinner. Allison Szopinski, a Loyola alumna and member of the Pan-African Association, and Patrick Nono, a leader in the Sudanese community in Chicago, will speak on how the situation in Darfur has affected the local and international community.

"I really believe that a part of our world ... has been neglected by the media and the U.S., that we need to truly recognize the situation," Bina Mangattukattil, a chaplain of University Ministry who is closely involved with the preparation for the fast, said.

The fast is not an attempt to raise money. Students that participate are asked to fast in whatever way they can. Some may give up a meal or two, others may give up a luxury during the day. If students skip luxuries, like a latté or a bag of chips, they can use that as a way to remember the people ofDarfur, Mangattukattil explained.

The fast is a precursor to Hunger Week, which will take place the week of Oct. 21. Though the fast is not a fundraising event, the Darfur Fast Planning Committee hopes that a raised awareness of the Darfur situation will urge students to donate money during Hunger Week. One-third of the money raised during Hunger Week will be donated to Oxfam International, an organization that distributes money to the relief effort of injustices throughout the world.

"Start informing yourself. When you turn on the T.V., you don't see much about Darfur," Mangattukattil said. "Go on the Internet and start from there. Find opportunities to move to action."


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