A Quest for Peace

Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 2004
A Quest for Peace
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Genocide Symposium Held at Cazenovia College

CAZENOVIA — On Nov. 6, Cazenovia College and Le Moyne College co-hosted a symposium on the genocide crisis in Sudan. The day was filled with student panel presentations and included a speech by Father Darius Makuja, instructor of religious studies at Le Moyne College.

The symposium opened with a welcome from Laura Harrington, president of the Human Rights Club; Mark Tierno, president of Cazenovia College and Father Charles Bierne, SJ, president of Le Moyne College. A video about Darfur, Sudan was shown and Gabriel Bol Deng, a refugee, gave a response. Following Bol Deng’s response, four student panel presentations were given on the historical aspects of the conflict and crisis in Sudan. Vincent White presented “The Mahdist Revolt in Sudan, Late Nineteenth Century” and Ebere Osu presented “The Colonial Legacy and Post Colonial Conflicts in the Sudan.” After that, Kara Denette and Jenna Hartwell presented “The Key Players in the Darfur Conflict and the Influence of the Web” and Carrie Fritze presented “The Long Running North-South Civil Wars and the Crisis in the Sudan.” Cazenovia College senior Stephanie Seitles was extremely interested in the panel presentations. “I am very impressed by the speakers and the research they did. When asked questions, they had the material to back up their answers,” said Seitles.

Following lunch in the dining hall, Father Makuja presented “The Sins of Our Fathers are Not Ours.” With his presentation, Father Makuja hoped to challenge people to urge the global community to help Sudan. Father Makuja has witnessed and has grown up in the midst of civil wars in Sudan. He was born in Lotukei, near the border of Kenya, to a Christian family that belongs to the Didinga tribe. He lost his parents, relatives and friends during the 21 years of civil war. He has family in refugee camps that are struggling to survive. In Sudan the Janjaweed militias, armed by the government, are to blame for some of the worst atrocities in the conflict in Darfur. They have destroyed villages, raped women and massacred thousands of civilians. Recent estimates of the dead have risen to 70,000 people; about 1.5 million have been uprooted from their villages and now live in squalid refugee camps. The people of Sudan have suffered and continue to suffer. Morrisville student Zachary Seitles was disturbed after hearing about the situation in Sudan. “I am astounded that this is still going on. I don’t see why they haven’t taken action. It needs to be dealt with,” said Seitles.

While this is going on, world leaders, particularly the UN and other super powers, are still debating whether what they call the “worst humanitarian crisis” in Dafur is genocide or not genocide. Father Makuja posed the questions: “How do we as humans meet these challenges? Do we continue to evade responsibility or do we face the facts of why people continue to die in my country? People in Darfur cry for help from the global community now!” Father Makuja believes that many problems have contributed to the Sudan crisis. The international community’s evasion of responsibility in large part lies in Africa’s lack of economic and strategic interest which leads to an indifferent attitude from the West. According to presenters, the global community must be engaged in peacemaking efforts in Sudan by accelerating the pressure on the warring parties to sign comprehensive peace agreements in Kenya and Nigeria.

Political marginalization by successive Arab-led governments since independence is at the heart of the conflicts in Sudan, and the world community needs to help resolve this immediately. In order to achieve broad political settlement in South Sudan and Darfur, international pressure needs to be exerted on the warring parties. The biggest threat to any peace process in Sudan at the moment comes from outside countries obstructing efforts for peace. Some of these countries have businesses and strategic interests in Sudan. Through oil extraction, the government and the oil companies share complicity in human rights abuses by forcefully removing people from their ancestral lands to make way for oil exploration.

Father Makuja hopes a turning point will come when the UN Security Council meets in Nairobi soon to continue negotiations to end Sudan’s civil war. In 1996, Father Makuja came to the U.S. to study at St. Louis University, where he earned a master’s degree in historical theology and is a doctoral candidate. He has been in Syracuse since 2003 and is a visiting assistant professor at Le Moyne College. The symposium continued with three presentations on the present conditions of the crisis in Sudan. Tanya Sorensen and Ashley Kuhn presented “Conditions of Modern Slavery in the Sudan” and Robert Ford presented “The Response of the International Community to the Genocidal Situations in Rawanda and Dafur, Sudan.” Sara Coant and Beth LaLonde presented “The Refugee Situation in Sudan.”

After the presentations, those participating in the “Action Planning Session” formulated a plan to act to assist with the crisis in Sudan. The symposium ended with Dana Sheehy, student representative, leading the closing ceremony. Whether pressure comes from the UN, the U.S., or other governments, the hope is that the conflicts in Sudan end quickly.

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