Students organize over Sudanese conflict

By Kelsey Kastrava
September 14, 2010


Editor’s Note: This story won 2nd place for the Chandler Award for Student Religion Reporter of the Year

Cabrini College students are rallying together to raise awareness and prevent what many are calling a potential massive war in Africa. If Southern Sudan votes to separate from the north in a January election, a tragic war could break out, adding to the four million casualties of the last war and the suffering that still exists in the two poor regions of Sudan Southern Sudan and Darfur.

“Our goal is to get the attention of local media and eventually national media by partnering with other colleges and universities in the area,” senior Eric Gibble, president of Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors at Cabrini College, said.

Gibble is organizing a separate working group of CRS Ambassadors that is immediately acting on what is happening in Sudan. His plans within the working group are reaching out to the Cabrini STAND chapter and the Black Student Union to join forces with the CRS Ambassadors. STAND, Students Taking Action Now in Darfur, is a world-renowned student-run organization of college and high school students who are anti-genocide activists.

In addition, the CRS ambassadors are set to speak with local politicians and see what they are doing to promote peace in Sudan. The first step for the ambassadors was to get briefed on the current situation.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Dan Griffin, CRS adviser for Sudan, spoke with a classroom full of CRS ambassadors and communication majors about the likelihood of a mass genocide.

“I’m here today talking to universities and to you students,” Griffin said, “because you can be the first generation to end a genocide rather than respond to it.”

Griffin explained that Sudan, being the largest country on the African continent, has experienced the longest running war along with the largest humanitarian involvement.

Despite the efforts of CRS and the ceasefire agreement signed in 2005, political and material turmoil and the millions of people displaced from the previous civil war leave Southern Sudan a shattered region.

Griffin feels now is a better time than ever to get our country to notice the possible massacre in Sudan that could result from the elections on January 9, 2011.

“People are not talking about what happens if a convulsive seizure of violence breaks out that makes what happened in Rwanda looks easy,” Griffin said. “I’m here to tell you to talk about it, learn about it and to get involved.”

The CRS section focusing on Sudan will be separate from the year-long commitment of other CRS members. Gibble recommends that if you do not have time to commit to getting involved, students should educate themselves on the matter by paying attention to what is going on in the media now.

Dr. Shelby Hockenberry, assistant professor of political science and adviser for STAND at Cabrini, is concerned that with all of the attention of the election of Sudan, the issues in Darfur are being ignored.

“People can’t forget that three million displaced people exist in Darfur,” Hockenberry said. “If this war on resource allocation breaks out, where will these people go?”

Hockenberry’s advising role of STAND is still fairly new. The small chapter at Cabrini is still shaping itself to fit into Cabrini’s clubs and is applying for recognition from the college.

Hockenberry explains that the 1,200-mile border that separates Darfur from Sudan is rich with resources. She adds that in addition to the turmoil between the Sudanese in the North and the South, Darfur will again break out into war if the resources are not divided fairly.

“Now is a perfect time for students to become aware of what is going on, what is being done and what they can do to help,” Hockenberry said.

“What’s going to happen in Sudan is going to happen whether you notice it or not, prepared or not,” Griffin said. “You have the opportunity to engage and make interventions that can shift this thing in a better way.”

Dan Griffin, Catholic Relief Services adviser for Sudan, speaks to students on the possible implications of Southern Sudan seceding from the north. –Jerry Zurek /Submitted Photo

“People have said in the past that if they had known about it [genocide] before it happened, they would have prevented it,” Gibble said. “This is the time students can prevent it.”

To get involved in the efforts of CRS to keep peace in Sudan, contact Eric Gibble at

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Kelsey Kastrava

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