Bearing candles and green ribbons, nearly 30 students gathered at a vigil Sunday evening to raise awareness about the ongoing violence in Darfur, Sudan.
The vigil introduced Monday’s Sudan Awareness Day, when student representatives from Amnesty International and Students Take Action Now: Darfur will be tabling on Cross Campus and in dining halls. Those tabling will encourage students to write letters petitioning U.S. and UN representatives to take action to stop what group members described as a genocide. At the vigil, students circled around a chalked silhouette of the African country to read aloud Sudanese refugees’ testimonies about the rape and violence they have experienced at the hands of the Sudanese government and the government-backed Janjaweed milita. They also read testimonies from survivors of the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust.
Adina Lopatin ’05, who co-founded STAND with Elyse Schneiderman ’05, said that the vigil was an opportunity for Yale students to think about the meaning of genocide.
“There’s lip-service to the idea of ‘never again,’ and here’s a chance for action,” Lopatin said.
STAND is an intercollegiate organization founded first at Georgetown University, STAND publicity coordinator Elizabeth Dickinson ’07 said. It has other chapters at the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University, she said. Schneiderman said American college students are particularly able to raise awareness and encourage the international community to take action in Sudan.
“There’s power in working together with other campuses to make a lot of noise,” Schneiderman said. “We have the time and, I think, the energy to take action.”
STAND worked with Amnesty International and student religious groups, including St. Thomas More, Hillel and the Muslim Students Association, to organize Sunday’s vigil.
“It was a really good way for people of faith to join together and express how this was something of a human rights issue,” Sarah Heiman ’05, a student leader with St. Thomas More, said.
Many of the students at the vigil were already involved with STAND, but there were a number of passersby who stopped to listen to the testimonies. Those who attended the vigil said it was both moving and sobering.
“It’s a really good way to feel for the people out there who are suffering,” Arafat Razzaque ’06, the vice-president of the Muslim Students’ Association, said. “It’s a way to minimize the distance between them and us.”
Dickinson said STAND’s activism has been well-received on campus, but that they are still working to involve those students who might not already have an interest in international affairs.
“It’s been very receptive in certain communities, and not so receptive in others,” Dickinson said. “There’s been a lot of discussion on campus outside of our organization.”
She said Yale students, who come from across the United States, can be instrumental in raising awareness among their home communities as well through letter-writing campaigns to their local newspapers.
Eleonora Sharef ’07, who helped set up the vigil, urged those who attended to spread the word across the campus.
“We think that with pressure from the U.S. something can change,” Sharef said. “Spread the word about this to your friends.”
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