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Originally published Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Students' idealism is beacon

The three men wore the trappings of Americans: Suits. Good shoes. Cellphones within reach. But their eyes told another story. Death. Starvation Starvation. Freedom out...

Seattle Times staff columnist

The three men wore the trappings of Americans: Suits. Good shoes. Cellphones within reach.

But their eyes told another story. Death. Starvation. Freedom out of reach. Three of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," named for their escape from that war-ravaged part of Africa, spoke at Seattle University yesterday to remind people about Darfur.

"It's nothing we can really explain," William Awar, 23, said, then looked at the floor.

Darfur is a word I can hardly speak out loud. What started as a decades-long civil war has degenerated into what the United Nations sees as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Hundreds of thousands killed by a government militia. Women systematically raped; children kidnapped. Two million people displaced, and so, so hungry.

Last July, both houses of Congress unanimously passed a resolution declaring the atrocities in Sudan genocide, and called on the White House to take stronger action.

Almost a year later, nothing.

So students from Seattle University, the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University and Seattle Central University formed the Coalition for Global Concern (CGC) and put together "Darfur Awareness Week" to spread the outrage.

At "Soup with Substance," yesterday, Awar, Bol D. Akuoc, also 23, and Moses Garang, 22, told of their time in a refugee camp, and their journey here.

Behind the 50 concerned faces in the audience, the thoughtful questions, I sensed a certain weariness.

"If it's not this crisis, there will always be another," Seattle University senior Tuseef Chaudhry, 20, told me afterward. Consider the strife in Pakistan, where the Ahmadis are fighting mainstream Muslims.

"We're all here trying to make a utopian world," he said. "To battle that, we'd have to be everywhere at once."

College students are our Great Hope. They have the time, energy and intellect to grasp social issues, and the earnestness to seek change.

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"When I hear about injustice, I have an obligation to do something," said Erin Foran, 19, a Seattle University sophomore and head of Students Together Acting Now for Darfur (STAND). "Because I can't not know about it anymore."

Still, she realizes that Sudan is just one heartache. The war in Iraq, the December tsunami, genocide in Darfur. Each can seem like just another colored band to slip on one's wrist.

"People have a lot of pessimism about the way the world is right now," Foran said. "It gets so overwhelming, we don't do anything."

And yet, as always, the students' idealism draws the rest of us in.

Tonight at SU's Wyckoff Auditorium, CGC will host a 6 p.m. panel discussion on Rwanda, followed by a showing of "Hotel Rwanda," followed by a discussion titled "Is Darfur a Repeat?"

And at 9 p.m. Sunday, the group will hold a peace vigil at the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

There is much to pray for. Lost Boys. Found purpose.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She always loved Danny Kaye.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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