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Big East Basketball to Shine Light on War-torn and Hungry Sudan

By 1 June, about 40,000 people displaced from Abyei after the town's takeover by Sudan Armed Forces had been registered in the Abyei area, Unity State and the greater Bahr El-Ghazal region and were receiving humanitarian assistance. Photos: UNMIS/Issac Gideon.

This Wednesday, when Villanova University squares off against Seton Hall, you can expect another competitive Big East Conference basketball game. This game will differ from others in that it will seek to build support for Peace in Sudan.

Villanova and Seton Hall are partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in “Playing for Peace” to help bring an end to conflict, hunger and suffering in Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan fought a decades-long civil war that ended in 2005 with a peace agreement. However, violence has continued and the agreement has not been fully implemented.

Peace activism will take place throughout the game. Students will be handed a flyer showing how they can help by contacting the White House and urging the administration to support the peace process.

South Sudan became the world’s newest country last July, gaining independence from Sudan. However, peace in the region remains elusive as conflict and border tensions continue. It is critical that UN peacekeeping missions be supported and fully funded to protect civilians, and help establish conditions to build a lasting peace and development.

A peacekeeping mission called UNISFA was deployed to Abyei, which is a disputed territory on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. This oil rich region is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, and fighting has taken place there for years despite the 2005 agreement. UNISFA is there to make sure the area is demilitarized and made safe for civilians.

The threats go beyond the guns. Hunger and poverty still dominate the countryside. Drought often harms food production efforts and malnutrition is a major threat to children. Displacement from conflict makes this situation even more desperate. Conflict exists not only between South Sudan and Sudan, but also between rival tribes.

At this very moment, aid agencies are trying to help 50,000 displaced persons in the Jonglei State of South Sudan. CRS reports that the ethnic conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives in the past six months. One of the driving forces behind this internal conflict is the lack of resources. Hunger and poverty feed desperation and violence.

Isaac Boyd of CRS Sudan says, “After nearly four decades of working in Sudan and South Sudan, CRS recognizes that sustainable development and peace are tightly interwoven. To contribute to a lasting improvement in the level of basic services and economic opportunities available to people throughout South Sudan, it is imperative to support communities to find meaningful, concrete ways to resolve their differences and put an end to destructive conflict. Simultaneously, tensions between groups are often exacerbated by the scarcity of basic services like access to water, schools, or health clinics. Development and peace have to happen at the same time.”

Will there be enough resources for aid agencies to reinforce the drive for peace? CRS is sponsoring emergency aid as well as long-term food security projects. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is reporting that its 2012 relief operation for South Sudan is short 179 million dollars. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from governments and the public.

Without food, children in Sudan will suffer lasting physical and mental damage, thereby stunting the next generation. Without food for schoolchildren, education will suffer. A national school lunch program still needs to be established.

Playing for Peace is part of a series of events about Sudan sponsored by Villanova University. For more information, please visit the CRS newswire.

Article first published as Big East Basketball to Shine Light on War-Torn and Hungry Sudan on Blogcritics.

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Filed under global hunger, peace