By Katie Swinton
Villanova hosted a recent two-day series of talks on Catholic Social Teaching and human rights. On March 19, Dan Griffin, Sudan advisor for Catholic Relief Services, presented on “Catholic Relief Services and Sudan.”
Griffin’s speech highlighted the continuing difficulties in Sudan, post Civil War. He emphasized Sudan’s vulnerability, especially since the independence of South Sudan only nine months ago. Animosity still remains despite a peace referendum signed between North and South Sudan. South Sudan, a country with immense cultural and ethnic diversity, is still in the developmental stage. Griffin believes international assistance is necessary to guide the country in the right direction.
Griffin focused on four main threats to the stability of Sudan. First, he expressed great concern for South Kordofan, the border area between North and South Sudan. This region has seen fighting between the Sudanese government and rebels from the South since the independence of South Sudan. As the area becomes increasingly isolated, he predicts much suffering, starvation, and injustices to the people of the region.
He then acknowledged the Sudanese of Southern origin residing in the North, who now have an unresolved status. Because of their ethnicity, North Sudan does not acknowledge them as citizens, but recently has granted them civil protection (but no civil rights).
Griffin then informed the audience that Sudan has the highest population of displaced people in the world. This enormous proportion leads into his third concern – providing enough food.
Finally, he highlighted the precarious situation of the economies of both Sudan and South Sudan. Both economies are very dependent on oil revenues, but because of disagreements, South Sudan has shut down its oil pipelines. This decline in revenue will come with devastating consequences.
Griffin proceeded to explain CRS’ role, as it is the world’s largest humanitarian organization in Sudan. The agency provides emergency response and food programming. Two hundred and fifty representatives spread throughout Sudan feed over 500,000 people each month. CRS also executes developmental work through engagement in dialogue and increased educational opportunities in an effort to end the need for aid and decrease dependence.
The most important message of Griffin’s presentation is that Sudan still needs help. He noted that since the end of Sudan’s civil war, social media no longer focuses on the conflict in Sudan, causing many to believe that the country has obtained peace. Griffin pushes to increase awareness of the continuing conflict in Sudan. He said that in order to prevent emergencies, the time to take action is now. Once the starvation and slaughter hits the media, the opportunity has passed.
In the midst of Villanova’s advocacy week, Dan Griffin’s was one of many important talks that will take place throughout the week. Hopefully, throughout the course of the week, these events will raise awareness of many important issues, including that of Sudan, and lead Villanovans to fulfill its schools motto, ignite change.
Katie Swinton is a sophomore Economics and English major serving as an intern in the communication office in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On campus, she is involved with Habitat for Humanity, WXVU (the campus radio station) and the Villanovan. She is a big Boston sports fan and loves attending Patriots and Celtics games. She is obsessed with her two dogs!