Be the Cause

An Evening in Sudan Speeches

Below are the two speeches from An Evening in Sudan – November 20th held at St Polycarp Church in Stanton in partnership with Ann Nguyen of The Family Support Center.

Opening introducation at ‘An Evening in Sudan’ – Michele Benderra
Good evening everyone. My name is Michele Benderra and I’m a volunteer with BeTheCause. On behalf of BeTheCause and Family Support Center, we sincerely thank you for joining us tonight for “An Evening In Sudan”.

Tonight, we’re going to build a bridge. And the first step of that bridge lies within each and every one of us. It’s about whether or not we’re willing to make the connections between our own lives and the lives of people outside of our immediate circle. In this case, we don’t know the people. And even more than that, we don’t know anything about them, other than the fact that they live very, very far away from us, for the most part, they don’t look us, they don’t live like us, and it just seems like there is always some sort of violent conflict going on in that part of the world. When you look at it that way, there really aren’t any connections between us and them are there?

But, like I said, we are here to build a bridge, and the first step of that bridge is us, The next step of our bridge will be education. And to that end, we will hear from Dr. Lako Tongun. He is a professor of International and Intercultural Studies at Pitzer College. He’ll give us an overview of just what is going on in Darfur, Sudan.

The next step of our bridge will be built on compassion. Arif Shaikh from Islamic Relief and James Deharpporte from Catholic Relief Services will tell us what their organizations are doing right now on the ground in Darfur. Arif was actually in Darfur earlier this year and he will show us a slide show about his experience.

The next step of our bridge will be built on inspiration. That will be abundantly provided by Alphonisian Deng and AJ Chol. They come from a group of refugees known as the “lost boys of Sudan”. They will put a human face on what happens to people, especially children during war. They’ll share what its like to be chased from home away from family and friends and forced to live in refugee camps in foreign countries away from everything that is familiar to them. But these guys are survivors and they’ll also tell us how they are trying to rebuild their lives in spite of the horrors they have experienced. They are also musicians and they are going to play a couple of traditional songs for us.

And finally, the last step of the bridge, well, you guessed it, comes back to us. It’s where the connection is created. It’s where we let the people of Darfur, Sudan into our immediate circle.

Tonight, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from five extraordinary speakers. You’ll also have a chance to visit the information tables set up in the back. The groups represented at those tables are Doctors w/out Borders, Amnesty Intl, Save The Children, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief, and Catholic Relief Services, as well as Family Support Center and BeTheCause. One extra word about the International Rescue Committee. They not only help people in places like Darfur and other refugee situations, they also help refugees resettle in the U.S. It’s important to remember that just because a person has been removed from the immediate danger of war, their journey is far from over.

If I could leave you with one final thought. As the evening proceeds, take time to look around the room and know that you are in good company. If you could see what I see right now, you would know with absolute certainty that a better world is possible. And remember, we change the world as we change ourselves. As long as we continue to see the people of Darfur, Sudan, or from anywhere else for that matter, as stranger, foreign, scary, weird, we’ll continue to turn a blind eye to their suffering. But once we begin to see each other as friend, neighbor, brother, sister, it will become second nature for us to step up and do whatever we can to help each other.

– Michele Bandera

Closing Talk – Sukh Chugh
Tonight has been about many things. We have learned about how bleak the situation is for millions of people in the Darfur region of Sudan. During an event like this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the size of the situation. It is natural to wonder what the 130 of us could do to fix this, and ultimately to even question what you as one person can do. The statistics are that overwhelming… 80,000 people killed in the last two years. Over 1.2 million people displaced from their homes.

… and if we begin to look at the problems of the world beyond Sudan, it becomes even more overwhelming. If we think about other areas of violent conflict, about the degredation of the envinronment… about world famine, it becomes easier to feel small in the face of these ailments. These problems of the world seem too big and feel beyond our control. They seem to exist somewhere out there… beyond our reach, and beyond our scope. Our day-to-day problems, on the other hand, are controlable by us. For example, a conflict with a dry-cleaner seems fixable because it is within our immediate reach. The problems of the world, however, feel just too big tackle.

But, for me, tonight, I have learned exactly the opposite. I have learned about the “power of one”… and the power of us.

This entire evening was put together by individuals like you and me that decided to take the problems of the world into their own hands. These individuals that put up these tables, set up these chairs, created these centerpieces, made these wall decorations and put this amazing event together were not paid employees, instead they participated because the problem of Sudan became their own problem.

As one individual we may not be able to solely cure AIDS, we may not be able to resolve international conflict… but we can act, we can participate… and, most importantly, we can make examples of our very own lives.

There are people in this room that have been referred to as Mother Teresa, as Mahatma Gandhi and as Martin Luther King Jr. And those three, Teresa, Gandhi and King, were every day people like you and me. They just found themselves in circumstances where the problems of the world began to feel like their own. … and by taking on the world’s problems, their own lives became great. I believe that is what they wanted to teach us, as Martin Luther King Jr said, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve”.

So tonight, I want to thank all the Teresas, Gandhis and Kings in the room… and that is each one of you… for taking steps to your own greatness, and for making the problem of Sudan, your own problem.

If the world has to change, it has to begin with us.

– Sukh

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