Jake Brems, Emmanuel Gore (Kroc Institute) and Kevin Dugan (left to right) in front of the Capitol Building.

Irish Lacrosse Heads Delegation To Washington, D.C. To Stand With Sudan

Dec. 26, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A delegation from the University of Notre Dame that included men’s lacrosse operations coordinator Kevin Dugan and junior defenseman Jake Brems (Kensington, Md./Georgetown Prep) spent time in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. during Monday and Tuesday of last week to further the school’s commitment to peace in Sudan by advocating for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan.

The group had meetings with key policymakers and non-governmental organizations. Among the stops on the trip were the White House, the State Department, Senator Richard Lugar’s (Ind.) office, Congressman Joe Donnelly’s (Ind.) office, The Enough Project and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Headquarters.

On Monday, the delegation met with Samantha Power at the White House in the Eisenhower Executive Offices. Power is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council in the White House. She also is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, foreign policy analyst, journalist and professor. Power’s New Yorker article on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan, won the 2005 National Magazine Award for best reporting.

“What Notre Dame has done is both important and unusual,” said Power. “Students don’t usually act proactively on issues like this to prevent conflict. The response is usually after disaster takes place. I think the story is yet to be written on how Notre Dame has been involved and can keep shining a light on this issue.”

The group also met with Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement, who works on President Obama’s youth engagement initiatives. Modi had a long conversation with the delegation regarding how to get college students more involved in civic engagement. He also accepted a letter and petition for President Obama seeking continued support of peacekeeping efforts in Sudan. Patrick McCormick (Notre Dame student government ’12), Emmanuel Gore (Kroc Institute) and Brems delivered the letter on behalf of the Notre Dame community.

The delegation then headed to Senator Lugar’s offices where they met with Michael Phelan who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where his portfolio includes African Affairs, Afghanistan, and Post-Conflict Stabilization/Reconstruction.

“Our meetings at Senator Lugar’s offices were incredibly informative,” commented Dugan. “Mr. Phelan led a very engaging conversation and dialogue with our students on Sudan, foreign policy and the global economy.”

The student group then went back to the CRS offices on Capitol Hill to dial into a White House conference call to get a debriefing and update on preparations for the upcoming referendum in Sudan on January 9th. From there they moved on to Congressman Donnelly’s offices where they met with his Legislative Director, Nathan Fenstermacher.

On Tuesday, the delegation started its day at the State Department where they met with Peter Quaranto (’06), who now is working in the offices of the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan.

“The meeting with Mr. Quaranto was really encouraging to us because just a few years ago he was a Notre Dame student fighting for justice in Northern Uganda, the same way we are now fighting for justice in Sudan,” stated Brems. “He was once in the same position we are currently in and his efforts made a huge difference in getting President Obama to sign the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.”

The delegation then moved on for a meeting with John Bagwell and a team of staffers at the Enough Project, a project of the Center for American Progress. The Enough Project seeks to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast has been a driving force behind drawing media attention to Sudan by arranging for media moguls like actor George Clooney and NBA star Tracy McGrady to be involved in Sudanese issues with visits to Darfur.

From there, the group headed north to Baltimore where they received a warm welcome at CRS Headquarters. Upon arrival the delegation had lunch and met with the CRS Executive Leadership Team and received a personal welcome from CRS President Ken Hackett.

“The spirit and fellowship we experienced at CRS was really special,” said Dugan. “CRS is fighting tirelessly for justice in Sudan and I think it was encouraging for them to see that fight resonate in the hearts and minds of students at Notre Dame. We received an extensive update from Dan Griffin and Steve Hilbert (USCCB) on operations in Sudan. This update was a powerful experience for our delegation and gave them a great look at how bold and courageous our Church really is in the fight for justice.”

While the nature of the visit to CRS Headquarters revolved around a very serious subject, the meetings ended on a light note as CRS President, Ken Hackett, escorted the delegation to the elevators, he encouraged the group letting them know that Notre Dame students have given them a boost of encouragement and a shot in the arm and closed by telling Dugan and Brems that “Lax (Lacrosse) is life!” Hackett played club lacrosse at Boston College as an undergraduate student and closely followed Notre Dame’s run to the national championship game last May.

The Notre Dame community has been heavily involved in working towards peace in Sudan. On October 5, 2010, a delegation representing the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops visited the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies to “reach out to the Catholic community” in the United States before making their appeal in high-level conversations arranged in both Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Following this appeal, the Notre Dame Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution expressing the student body’s solidarity with the people of Sudan and calling upon the University to “express its support for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement” and to “call attention to the urgency of securing a sustainable, just peace for all Sudanese.”

On December 4, the University of Notre Dame organized a community-wide `Stand with Sudan Rally’ and the `Playing for Peace’ basketball tournament. The men’s lacrosse team, men’s basketball team and Student Government sponsored the event to affirm Notre Dame’s commitment to answering the appeal of the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops by declaring for once and for all that `Never Again Begins Now.’

The rally involved a unique collaboration of several different University offices: The Center for Social Concerns, Campus Ministry, The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, Play Like A Champion and the Alliance for Catholic Education.

The mission of the event was to raise awareness about Sudan because on January 9, 2011, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan in 2005 will expire.

This week’s visit ended with a trip to the Inside Lacrosse Magazine headquarters in Baltimore. While there, Dugan, and Brems discussed their visit to Washington, D.C. and their pursuit to raise awareness about Sudan and to be a `voice for the voiceless’.

In addition to helping Sudan strive for peace, Brems spent this past summer working on a joint internship with the Center of Concern in Washington D.C. and Fields of Growth International. Fields of Growth, which was started by Dugan, is a non-profit organization operating in Uganda that is spreading the game of lacrosse while also developing social entrepreneurs and working with community-based organizations. Dugan has made numerous visits to Uganda with Fields of Growth and currently is working with the Play Like A Champion TodayTM program, to bring their ministry to Uganda.