Friday, February 16, 2007

Darfur Heroics: Gonzaga Univ STAND

Chris Heinrich
Issue date: 2/16/07 Section: News
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Seeking to spread awareness of the situation in Darfur, students staged a peaceful protest on campus last Friday.

Thirteen protesters, packing fliers and signs, called for an end to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the steps of the Crosby Student Center. Standing in dreary weather, protesters told passing students the circumstances of the situation and what they could do to help.

Clotheslines with T-shirts, each symbolizing 10,000 deaths, were hung both outside and inside the student center.

Emily Reinke, a sophomore organizer of the protest, agreed with Katie Beno, another sophomore organizer, that the focus of the protest was not on confrontation but information.

"When you say 'Darfur,' most everyone knows about the genocide in Africa but not the country," Reinke said. "Most people don't know the specifics."

More than 200 signatures were collected for a petition that called for legislation which would support the peacekeeping mission of African Union forces in Sudan. The petition will be sent to Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

Reinke, excited by the turnout, hopes that more activities focused on alleviating the situation in Darfur can now be arranged.

John Nhial, a junior who became involved with the protest after learning about it through an all-campus e-mail, supports foreign intervention in Sudan.

"Genocide should not be an African issue," he said.

Organization for the protest began when sophomore Priyanka Fernando was contacted last week by a friend who was looking to hold simultaneous protests at Portland State University, Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Nevada-Reno and Chapman University, in Orange, Calif.

Fernando then began to research the situation and planned the event alongside campus clubs JUSTICE and the Program for International Education and Relief.

The situation in Darfur, which has left 200,000 people dead since 2004, another 2 million displaced and an estimated 4 million dependent upon aid, was called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world" in January, according to the United Nations Web site.

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