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Villanova University Advocates for Peace in Sudan Ahead of Critical January 9 Referendum

Current Villanova graduate student and “Lost Boy” of Sudan, Malual DengDuot, to speak at a Dec. 7 Vigil for Peace

Vigil part of continued University collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to promote global justice and peace

VILLANOVA, Pa. – With just over a month to go until a critical Jan. 9 referendum in Sudan, the Villanova University community is advocating for peace and stability in the country, and supporting a community member in the process. On Dec. 7, Villanova will hold a Vigil for Peace in Sudan from 4:00-4:45 p.m. at Sheehan Field on the University’s main campus. Malual DenDuot, a transplanted “Lost Boy” of Sudan who is now earning his master’s degree in political science at Villanova, will speak at the vigil addressing the importance of the upcoming referendum and the need for solidarity and advocacy.

DengDuot escaped his war-torn home country in 2000 during the Second Sudanese Civil War and is one of approximately 30,000 displaced “Lost Boys” of Sudan. After decades of war between the north and south in Sudan, a tenuous peace agreement known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was put in place in 2005. The CPA granted southern Sudan an autonomous regional government and a referendum to choose between continued unity with Sudan or secession after a six-year interim period.

The upcoming Jan. 9 referendum will allow the people of southern Sudan to vote to remain part of Sudan or secede to form their own country. One of the fears is that if the referendum is not conducted freely and fairly, there is potential for increased violence, death and displacement as a result of renewed civil war.

During the Villanova vigil, there will be a candle lighting and prayer for peace, and participants will make cell phone calls to the White House comment line, leaving messages encouraging President Obama to continue to press for peace and stability in Sudan before, during and after the Jan. 9 referendum.

Barbara E. Wall, Ph.D., Vice President for Mission & Ministry at Villanova University is among those scheduled to speak at the vigil.

"As an institutional partner with CRS for the past five years, Villanova University has been privileged to work with CRS in its peace-building efforts,” Wall said.  “During this season of Advent, we as a University community will continue to advocate and pray for peace for the Sudanese people and encourage the United States to be proactive in the peace-building efforts of the Sudanese people to ensure stability and peaceful resolution in the upcoming January vote.”

The vigil is just one of the efforts Villanova University is making in support of peace in Sudan. STAND, a student-led division of the Anti-Genocide Coalition, as well as other campus organizations and members of the Villanova community are advocating, educating and raising consciousness for peace and stability in Sudan. Last month, the University assisted DengDuot and other local “Lost Boys” in traveling to Washington, D.C., to register to participate in the referendum, and will do the same for the actual vote on Jan. 9. Washington, D.C. is one of only three official domestic locations where Sudanese nationals can vote.

The Dec. 7 vigil is an expression of solidarity with the people of Sudan, the Sudanese Catholic Bishops and their ecumenical brothers and sisters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and the Villanova CRS Partnership.

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.