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Students, public skeptical about possibility for peace in the Middle East

May 19, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 18, 2009

This month, U.S. President Barack Obama will make good on his campaign promise to foster peace talks in the Middle East.

According to Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington on May 18, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will visit May 26 and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive May 28.

With each of these international leaders, Obama “will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and Arab states,” Gibbs said.

However, the majority of Elon University students seem to think that Obama’s efforts will be in vain.

According to an informal convenience poll of 31 Elon students, the majority believed that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved in the 21st century. About 10 percent of respondents believed that peace is possible, and approximately 39 percent of the students believed that peace will be achieved within this century, although it will not be likely any time soon.

“These issues are much more deeper than most people realize, and it’s been going back for centuries,” said junior political science major Katie Hatcher. “These are historical conflicts that can’t be resolved by someone coming in and putting money in to the region, putting military action in to it. I don’t think even the soldiers there understand what is going on.”

Junior Andie Diemer, editor-in-chief of Elon’s student newspaper, echoed Hatcher’s beliefs.

“I honestly don’t think there will ever be peace in the Middle East,” Diemer said. “It comes down to basic, fundamental human differences. We can definitely, definitely make progress, though. We need to open up the lines of communication, which Obama has been doing. I think that’s a good first step but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.”

Cautious optimism

The sentiments of the Elon students are in line with those of the general population, according to The Gallup Poll. The polling organization has found that historically, anywhere between 32 and 51 percent of Americans believe that peace is possible, and the confidence levels change following major historical events.

Tom Conley is the father of two children in the military. He said that for the first time in his life, he now believes that Middle Eastern peace is within reach.

“This conflict has been going on for thousands of years, and it’s not going to end overnight,” he said. “I don’t think one person could make a difference, but I do think that Obama’s administration has the power to make substantial strides. He lends a lot of credibility to the situation, based on his background, and I think that after September 11, the American people are willing to support stability in the region.”

Maggie Owner is a candidate for a Master’s in Political Science at American University. She has extensively studied the Middle East, and has personal ties with the region as her sister and nephew live in the United Arab Emirates. Like Conley, she believes that Obama can make critical progress towards establishing peace within the Middle East.

“I think peace in the Middle East is possible as long as Obama walks the fine line as a mediator and not a participant in peace talks,” she said. “Obama’s greatest challenge is to build connections between the regions instead of fueling their divisive relationship.”

Owner also added that in her personal experiences in the Middle East, she has noticed that the people seem “very open” to foreign intervention, as long as it doesn’t impact the region’s unique culture.

“Everything is possible” 

“If the question is ‘is peace in the Middle East possible?’ I honestly believe that everything is possible,” said Shereen Elgamal, assistant professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Elon.

Elgamal was born in Egypt, where she lived until 1993. Although she now lives in Cary, she returns to her home country every other summer.

She has traveled extensively within the Middle East, including to Mecca and Israel. As a devout Muslim, Elgamal says she is “proud” to have Christian and Jewish friends, and does not believe that Middle Eastern conflict is a result of religious differences.

“It’s not about Jews and Arabs because Jews and Muslims and Arabs have been living in this region for centuries,” she said. “Faith doesn’t have anything to do with people just hating each other.”

Instead, she attributes conflict to economic disparities and a general poor quality of life.

“We need to stop categorizing people by religion and start looking behind the acts of violence to see what kind of despair drives people to blow themselves up,” she said. “Maybe if we make life more tolerable for these people, they will stop thinking about blowing each other up.”

As for Obama’s upcoming meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak, Elgamal has some advice for the American leader. “Don’t believe everything the media tells you about this so-called religious conflict,” she said. “It’s sensationalized. It’s not reality. Look deeper, look for yourself what is causing it. Look to see how corrupt the leaders of all the countries are and what they are doing to our people.”

She also believes that Middle Eastern leaders need to provide equal representation to all demographics.

“Everybody needs to be represented, and everybody needs to be at the table,” she said. “Everybody needs to work for peace.”

 

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Red Oak brewery in Whitsett, N.C. bottles local flavor, best served cold

May 8, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 7, 2009

Generally, students enjoying a beer at one of Elon’s local bars rarely stop to consider what they’re drinking, where it came from or what exactly is in it. For those students who choose Red Oak beer, brew master Chris Buchman has good news.

Red Oak Brewery is located in Whitsett, N.C.

Red Oak Brewery is located in Whitsett, N.C.

 

“In moderation, our beer is good for you,” he said. “It has healthful minerals in it naturally, and hops actually have some antibacterial properties. One beer a day is better than no beer, and two beers a day is better than one. But past that, you really have to exercise self-control.” 

Buchman is one of the master brewers at Red Oak Brewery, located about 15 minutes from Elon University in Whitsett, N.C. The brewery is known for three beers; it’s signature Red Oak, Hummingbird and Battlefield Bock. 

The Whitsett location was opened in 2007, but Red Oak beer has been a North Carolina favorite for much longer. Red Oak originally started as a restaurant and pub near Guilford College, but soon expanded to include six locations across North Carolina. In 2001, the owners decided to focus solely on their passion – beer – and opened a large-scale brewery in Greensboro. The Whitsett location was built when the company outgrew the Greensboro plant.

The Whitsett location opened in 2007 after the brewery outgrew it's previous Greensboro facility.

The Whitsett location opened in 2007 after the brewery outgrew it's previous Greensboro facility.

What sets Red Oak apart from other breweries is their strict adherence to the 1516 Purity Law. The Law, written in Germany, states that the only ingredients in beer should be barley, hops and water. However, Buchman explains that the beer’s flavor can be altered by using different types of barley and hops, or by cooking the grains for different lengths of time. 

“A lot of beer companies use corn or rice to make beer because that’s cheaper than barley, but it creates a sub-par beer,” explained Buchman. “Then, they have to use additives and flavors to make something worth selling. We don’t use corn. We don’t use rice. We feel strongly that good beer doesn’t need extra flavors.”

Because the Law of Purity doesn’t allow for any pasteurization, all Red Oak beer is packaged immediately after brewing and shipped as soon as possible to local bars and restaurants. Buchman advises treating the beer like a dairy product, keeping it cool and consuming it as soon as possible. For now, Red Oak only has the resources to distribute their beers to the local North Carolina community.

“Our whole philosophy is bringing fresh beer to small territories right around the brewery,” said Buchman. “It’s an old school philosophy, but it works for us.” 

By September, he says, the brewery would like to purchase the technology to bottle their beer in a single-serve can or bottle to be sold in grocery stores. For now, their beers are only available in half-gallon growlers, kegs or on tap at a variety of local restaurants. 

From barley to beer

Every Friday, Buchman leads groups of beer enthusiasts on a tour of the Whitsett brewery. For a fee of $5, guests can see where the grains are stored, how the barley is cooked and see the 400-gallon tubs used to brew the beer. The 30-minute tour concludes with complimentary samples of Red Oak’s three beers.

Buchman describes the namesake Red Oak brew as a “traditional, old style lager” with a crisp taste. The Hummingbird brew is lighter and crisp, with a sweet after taste. The final beer, Battlefield Bock, is smooth and dark and

Chris Buchman attended brewery school in Germany, and is now a master brewer for Red Oak. Every Friday, he leads groups on tours of the Red Oak facilities.

Chris Buchman attended brewery school in Germany, and is now a master brewer for Red Oak. Every Friday, he leads groups on tours of the Red Oak facilities.

reminiscent of black coffee. 

 

“Treat beer drinking just like wine tasting,” Buchman advises. “You want to start with the lightest beer, then work your way to something heavier.” 

He adds that the namesake lager is the most popular product, and is a hit in the local community.

“Wherever we sell our beer, Red Oak quickly becomes one of the top three most popular brews,” he said. “It’s just a testament to our quality.”

 

redoak
redoak

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Significance of Obama’s first 100 days in office recognized by most Elon students

May 1, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 1

Wednesday marked President Barack Obama’s 100th day as the 44th president of the United States.  The 100-day milestone was marked by a press conference and surrounding media frenzy, with someone from every end of the political spectrum weighing in on the President’s strengths and shortcomings.

Most students on Elon University’s campus were aware of the presidential benchmark, though many had differing ideas on the importance of the day.

Junior Cory Bent said he hadn’t paid much attention to the media coverage of Obama’s 100th day.

“I don’t really see the importance of it, it just seems like an arbitrary number,” Bent said. “Like, why does it matter? He’s already been elected, there’s nothing that we can do now.”

Sharon Spray, associate professor of political and environmental science, explained the significance of the day.

“The first 100 days are regarded as significant because it is a good yardstick for the public to see which campaign promises the president has or has not fulfilled, and then to hold him accountable to those for the rest of the term,” she said. “However, there are also other interesting things to take note of, such as how he has fared in public opinion polls, what people he has put in cabinet, how the parties have realigned themselves, and so on.” 

On Obama’s 100th day, Gallup put his public approval rating at 65 percent, which was lower than his Inauguration Day ratings of 83 percent, but still higher than George W. Bush’s 60 percent approval rate after his first 100 days in office. 

Senior Katie Meyer recognized the importance of the event from a historical perspective.

“I can’t believe it has been 100 days already,” she said. “I think that regardless of whether you voted for him or not, it’s just amazing to be part of history and just to witness the 100 day mark for something a lot of people thought would never happen.”

Sophomore Kelly Molin agreed.

“I do think that his first 100 days is significant, and maybe more so significant than ever because he is obviously a lot different than our last presidents,” she said. “So far, there have been things [Obama] has done that I agree and disagree with, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the next 100 days go.”

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Elon students generally environmentally aware; University promotes awareness through Earth Week events

April 17, 2009

Jessica Dexheimer

April 17, 2009

As Elon University continues to promote its green initiative, students are taking notice.

In an informal convenience poll of 132 Elon students, 90 percent said that they consider themselves to be environmentally aware. Sixty-four percent said that the university has played a major role in their level of environmental awareness.

“I’m a biology major, so obviously it’s a big issue in a lot of my coursework,” said senior Scott Russell. “I think other students are becoming more aware, especially when it comes to the small things like recycling and turning off the lights.” 

Freshman Britta Winans said that she often walks to class to save gas and she also recycles. She credits these practices to lessons learned from some of her Elon professors.

“Because of my global studies classes at Elon, I’ve realized that humans making more of an impact will ultimately impact our whole world for the better,” she said.

Junior Nicole Bonine echoed these sentiments. 

“I think that it’s important to sustain the habits of animals that have no voice in the destruction that we are causing,” she said. 

Actions for a greener future

The majority of students polled take some sort of action to protect the environment.

Of the 82 percent of students who said that they do make an effort to be greener, the majority (75 percent) said that they did so by recycling. An additional 48 percent said that they tried to save gas by walking more and taking fewer trips by car.

However, some students are less proactive in protecting the environment. The majority of students polled were not concerned with reducing their carbon footprint, and even fewer students took steps to conserve water.

Junior Justin Darby said that he only recycles “when it’s convenient” for him, and generally does so while on campus. Sophomore Alberto Rojas echoed these sentiments by saying that he recycles, but mostly recycles only plastic, although paper and metal recycling receptacles are available across campus.

This week, Elon will be celebrating Earth Day with a week-long series of events, including special meals in on-campus dining locations and a farmer’s market.

                  Steps that Elon students take to protect the environment

(from a random sample of 131 students)

(from a random sample of 131 students)

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Finding a place to call home: Refugees settle in the N.C. Triad

April 10, 2009

Jessica Dexheimer

April 10, 2009

Fjolla Berisha came of age in a war zone.

She grew up in Kosovo, just outside the capital city of Pristina. Her childhood was comfortable; her father was a businessman and her mother a teacher, and Berisha and her two brothers had many friends in their close-knit neighborhood.

“We had a pretty normal life,” Berisha said. “We were just a normal family, we weren’t very involved with politics or anything like that. We weren’t looking for trouble, but somehow, the worst happened to us.”

In 1996, tensions between Kosovo’s Serbian majority and the Albanian population came to a head. Violence increased, and by 1999, Berisha’s life was forever changed.

“It was so dangerous,” said Berisha, an ethnic Albanian. “The Serbians bombed our neighborhood schools. It did not matter to them about the lives of the teachers, the students inside. They would kill the boys and rape the girls. Every day, it was a danger to leave our house.”

In April 1999, Berisha’s family escaped to Macedonia. Here, they settled in a United Nations-run refugee camp.

Fjolla (rear) lived with her family in a refugee camp in Macedonia for two months before being accepted as a refugee in the United States.

Fjolla (rear) lived with her family in a refugee camp in Macedonia for two months before being accepted as a refugee in the United States.

 

 

“The living conditions were horrible,” said Berisha. “They had started these programs where you signed up and said you wanted to go to a safe country and find a home. We signed up.”

After two months in the refugee camp, Berisha’s family found out that they had been granted refugee status and were being resettled in the United States.

“We had no idea what was going on,” Berisha said. “We were told we were going to America, and that was pretty much it. We felt lost, but we thought anything could be better than the camp.”

On June 24, 1999, the Berisha family arrived at the Raleigh-Durham airport in their new home of North Carolina.

Coming to America

The Berisha family is not alone.  Every year, thousands of refugees are admitted to the United States: in 2007, 54,942 refugees entered the country and approximately 4 percent were resettled in North Carolina. The majority of these refugees are placed in Buncombe, Craven, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake counties where they receive help in starting their new lives. refugeedefinition

“Whenever a refugee comes to the United States – or any developed host country, really – they obviously need help assimilating,” explained Miriam Kessel, a case manager at the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants field office in Raleigh. “That’s why VOLAGs are so important, they help immensely in those first few weeks.”

The term “VOLAG” refers to ten United States voluntary agencies that work with the State Department to provide resettlement services for newly arrived refugees.

The North Carolina Division of Social Services currently recognizes five VOLAGs in North Carolina: Catholic Social Services, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Interfaith Refugee Ministry, Lutheran Family Services and World Relief Refugee Services.

refugeegraphThese agencies rely on self-generated income and funding from the State Department to provide refugees with crucial services, including cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, transportation, job preparation and social adjustment services. They also pay for three to six months of rent and utility bills for each family.

“The ultimate goal is to help these refugees become self-sufficient as quickly as possible,” said Kessel. “They are guaranteed assistance for six months following arrival, and ideally, by that time they will be able to navigate the American culture and can provide for themselves and their families.”

‘You might as well do a good job.’

Although all the agencies are required to provide certain services, the quality of service that they provide varies widely.

Berisha’s family was assisted by World Relief. The High Point-based organization met the family at the airport, and after a brief cultural orientation, showed them to their new home.

“The house looked like it had been in a war,” recalled Berisha. “There was no furniture, holes in the wall. The water only worked sometimes. We were like, ‘give us a tent. Give us tickets and we’ll go back home.’ We were refugees, but we deserved better than that.”quote2

After two weeks, World Relief found a church in Burlington that was willing to host the family. After the family moved to Burlington, they had no follow-up contact with World Relief.

Berisha thinks that the VOLAG could have done more.

“I do hear cases where some people had everything ready when they came,” she said. “But for us, they didn’t have it ready. We were already depressed and lost, and having to come here to where nothing was prepared, it was really bad. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of helping people like us, you might as well do a good job.”

Jassem Altaie, a 24-year-old Iraqi refugee, had a more positive experience with the VOLAG that helped him and his family.

When Altaie arrived in North Carolina in June of 2008, he was aided by Lutheran Family Services (LFS), a VOLAG from Greensboro.

Altaie’s family left Iraq in 2006 after his father, a translator who worked with the United States military, was shot six times by an anonymous gunman.  Fearing for their own safety, Altaie, his mother and grandmother escaped to Jordan, where they lived until they were resettled in the United States in 2008.

“The way we lived in Jordan was not desirable,” he said. “The Jordanians were not exactly welcoming. We couldn’t work. We had no money. We lived with another family in an apartment with only two rooms. So, when we came to Greensboro, life was good.”

In Greensboro, LFS placed the family in a modest townhouse and helped Altaie enroll at Guilford Technical Community College.

“It seemed as if everyone from LFS wanted us to succeed,” he said. “They have things that they are required to do for every refugee, but they did more than that. They did everything to make us feel welcome and happy with our new lives.”

Tara Greenlee, Altaie’s case manager, said that all VOLAGs are similar in the services that they provide for refugees, but the quality of services is dependent on the individual’s case manager.

 “Honestly, we receive the same amount of funding as any other organization in North Carolina, and we provide the same services,” she said. “It is more of an issue of the individual case manager, if they are overworked or if they have time to devote to each refugee.”

Some refugees who come to the United States are ‘sponsored’ by friends or family members who already live in the country.

Alee Lwamba Saltzmann, 38, a Rwandan refugee, arrived in United States in 1997 and lived with her uncle’s family in Winston-Salem until she saved enough money to support herself.

In cases such as Saltzmann’s, Kessel said that the state has “minimal intervention” with the refugee and provides only the most basic financial and medical services and asks the anchor families to help orient the new arrival.

Balancing both cultures

Refugees are forced to adapt to a new culture immediately upon arriving in the country.

“If you’ve ever been in an airport, imagine getting out of that airport without being able to read any of the signs or ask anyone for help,” said Bonnie Harvey, an Elon University senior who has volunteered extensively with refugees for six years. “If not knowing the language is bad enough, imagine being surrounded by all sorts of foreign technology. That’s exactly what refugees go through when they first arrive in the States, and some of them have the added dilemma of not knowing basic concepts of how to wait in line or respect personal space.”

 Harvey added that she once worked with a group of refugees that was lost in an Atlanta airport for more than eight hours.

However, the problems that refugees face do not end at the airport. Although some refugees learned English in school or through aid workers at the refugee camps, far more need help learning basic English phrases.

Altaie was fluent in English before arriving to the United States, but neither Saltzmann nor Berisha spoke the language and had to rely on innovative ways to learn it. Both women said that they watched hours of American television and would listen in on conversations between native American speakers.

Saltzmann used creative ways to learn the language.

“In Rwanda, we spoke Bantu [tribal] languages but I also spoke French,” she explained. “They don’t make dictionaries to translate Bantu to English, but they do make French to English dictionaries. So, I bought the English lessons that they make for French children and taught myself the language through that way.”

She said that within six months she was fluent; Berisha said that she was fluent after four months.

Once refugees master the English language, they must focus on assimilating with the American culture.

“The littlest things can make you stand out,” said Altaie. “I remember how when I first arrived, I tried to imitate the American men that I saw in movies and on television – loud and always joking and flirting. It was obvious that I was trying to be something I wasn’t and that made me stand out more.”

Greenlee said that most VOLAGs offer classes designed to help refugees fit in with the American culture. The classes cover a variety of topics including personal hygiene, American slang and making social plans.

However, some refugees are hesitant to participate in the classes.

Altaie said that his mother and grandmother have not taken any of the classes provided by LFS.

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“You have to understand that refugees walk with one foot in two cultures,” he said. “We have to deal with fitting in in American culture because we have to, but we still want to remain true to the country where we were raised … We left because we had to, not because we no longer cared for our homeland.”

 Working hard for a new life

Before arriving in the United States, refugees are extensively screened by the Department of Homeland Security and are eligible to work immediately upon arrival. Within two weeks, they are given Social Security cards and any necessary vaccinations and are encouraged to start looking for jobs soon after.

Each VOLAG assists the refugee with securing a job and provides pre-employment training. According to the N.C. Division of Social Services, working refugees start with an average hourly wage of $8.29. 

For some, any employment is welcome.

“When I first arrived in Winston-Salem, I was definitely suffering from what you might call post traumatic stress disorder,” said Saltzmann, who lived in a refugee camp in Zaire for three years before moving to the United States. “All day long, I would sit in my uncle’s house and think about horrible things that happened in Rwanda. I felt sorry for myself. When I started to work [in a nursing home cafeteria], the work was easy and I was able to think of other things. I was able to forget for a little while.”

For others, menial labor for little more than minimum wage was accompanied by an unwelcome decrease in status. It can also be a new experience for women and teenagers who would not have been allowed to work in their home countries.

“For my parents, [the resettlement experience] was an absolute horror,” said Berisha. “It was very, very challenging. You have to understand that they were both educated and successful in Kosovo, but in America, they were working bad jobs and not getting respect.”

In Kosovo, Berisha’s parents had both worked; her mother as a teacher at a prestigious private school and her father as a successful businessman. In the United States, their first jobs were as cashiers at a convenience store and a gas station, respectively.

“It was difficult for them because they had literally spent their whole lives in Kosovo working hard to get educations and further their careers, and all that was wasted in a dead-end job,” Berisha said. “The worst part was the lack of respect from customers and co-workers. They thought, here are these people who don’t speak English, working in a gas station, they must not be very smart.”

Harvey said that in her experience, VOLAGs try to place refugees in jobs for which they are qualified. Sometimes, refugees have little formal education but may be skilled in a trade like sewing, woodworking or cosmetology. Ideally, caseworkers try to capitalize on these skills and build a career, but they often run in to the problem of a lack of funds.

services“Basically, the refugees have the skills but not the money to buy a sewing machine or open a shop or whatever,” explained Harvey. “So, it’s back to some low paying, dead end job.”

However, plenty of refugees are able to build careers. Saltzmann makes an admirable salary as a high school French teacher; Altaie hopes to succeed with his anticipated degree in Computer Information Systems.

Learning to succeed

As caseworkers help adult refugees to find jobs, they also place the children in schools.

Public schools present students with a new world, new opportunities but also new challenges.

Grade level is determined by age, not by test scores, and as Harvey explained, this can lead to “16-year-olds in high school who cannot read or write at all.”

Harvey works at a Greensboro community center that is sponsored by AmeriCorps and the North Carolina African Services Coalition. Here, she works with refugee youth and plans after-school programs, tutoring sessions and reading workshops. She said that these services are especially crucial in cities and other areas where overworked teachers do not have the time or resources to spend in assisting struggling refugee students.

Far too often, a student’s academic struggles lead to emotional struggles.

“In Kosovo, I was happy, I had friends and I actually liked going to school,” recalls Berisha. “When I started seventh grade [in Burlington], I was lost and depressed. I didn’t connect with any of the kids and I didn’t understand most of the things people said to me.”

Harvey acknowledged that all students react to stress differently, but said that she has noticed general trends in the behavior of refugee youth.

“Normally, they’re the quiet kid in the back of the classroom who is doing their best not to get noticed,” she said. “Occasionally, we do see refugee youth who act out. They won’t calm down in class, or in worst case scenarios, they’re violent towards other kids.”

For the most part, though, Harvey said that most students seem eager to learn and participate. 

Altaie, for one, was grateful for the educational opportunities.

“What happened to us in Iraq was awful,” he said. “But I am happy that it brought me here to the United States, to all this great technology and teachers that I could never have had back home.”

Trying times

The recent economic slump has led to even more struggles for refugees.

Many job prospects have vanished, and funding for VOLAGs and other support groups has slowed.

Although Greenlee could offer no specific figures on how much the economy has affected the budget for LFS, she estimated that the organization is currently operating on a budget that is 20 percent less than that of previous years. She said that she thinks this decrease has been standard for most VOLAGs.

Omer Omer, the director of the North Carolina African Services Coalition, a Greensboro-based organization that aids in the resettlement process, said via email that the economy is “by far the biggest problem that refugees will face in 2009.”

He said that the poor economy has led not only to a decrease in jobs but also a decrease in the amount of medical and cash assistance that the government has to offer. He also noted that the poor economy might also lead to a decrease in the number of refugees who are admitted to the country.

Saltzmann, for one, has remained optimistic.

“Of course this year will be difficult for many refugee organizations,” she said. “But keep in mind, most of us refugees come from countries with very little … We have already survived the worst things the world threw at us, we can make it through this just fine.”

 

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“Not on our watch:” Activist John Prendergast speaks at Elon about Darfur genocide

March 6, 2009

Jessica Dexheimer

March 6

On Wednesday, Elon students were called to action.

Human-rights activist and author John Prendergast spoke in Whitley auditorium and urged members of the Elon community to take action to stop violence in Darfur.

During the Clinton administration, Prendergast was the director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and special advisor for the Department of State. It was in this capacity that he became involved with the human rights crisis in Darfur.

To give a face to the genocide in Darfur, Prendergast told the story of Amina, a young mother from a rural village in Darfur. When the Janjaweed militia came in to Amina’s town, she tried to flee. The militiamen brutally killed two of Amina’s children, but she and two of her other children managed to escape to a refugee camp.

 

During the Clinton administration, John Prendergast worked as the director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and as a special advisor for the Department of State.

During the Clinton administration, John Prendergast worked as the director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and as a special advisor for the Department of State.

However, what happened to Amina was not an isolated incident. Prendergast estimated that the Janjaweed have killed at least 300,000 Sudanese, burned 1,500 villages and left three million people homeless. The militia targets non-Arabs from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagwa ethnic groups.

 

“This isn’t to divide and conquer, this is to divide and destroy,” Prendergast said of the Janjaweeds. “They do it to stay in power, by any means necessary.”

Barriers to aid

Prendergast said that the outside world has not done enough to alleviate the violence in Darfur.

He said that Sudan represents the “three greatest issues of our time: Iraq, counter-terrorism and energy security.”

Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan for six years in the 1990s. After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Sudanese government gained favor in America by sharing secrets about al Qaeda’s inner-workings. Sudan is also oil-rich – 70 percent of China’s oil comes from Sudan.

“Another factor is America believes Africa is helpless,” Prendergast said, attributing this in part to movies like “Blood Diamond,” “Lord of War,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “Hotel Rwanda.”

“[The movies] show a moment in time, but it happens to be the darkest moment in that country’s history,” Prendergast said. The movies do not show the economic and political advancements that the countries have since made.

“The point is, Africa is not hopeless,” Prendergast said. “Africa is a continent full of hope and limitless possibilities. That is the Africa I know.”

A call to action

Even though Prendergast believes that the major world powers have not done enough to help Darfur, he has not given up hope.

“I believe it’s darkest before the dawn, and I believe Sudan’s dawn is coming,” he said. “We can help the dawn come more quickly.”

Prendergast offered five “windows of opportunity” that he believes will lead to a difference in Sudan.

The first is the election of President Barack Obama,whom Prendergast believes will champion for human rights reform.

“We now have supplanted the three biggest activists from the Senate into the White House: Obama, Biden and Clinton,” Prendergast said.

He is also looking forward to the upcoming Sudanese elections, hoping that they could bring some change to the tumultuous region.

Prendergast also says that the United States should urge China to cut economic ties with Sudan, and hopes that this economic pressure could force the Sudanese government to denounce the Janjaweed militia.

On Wednesday morning, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar Al-Bashir, Sudan’s head-of-state. Prendergast compared this to the Nuremberg trials, and hopes that it is the beginning of a major change for Darfur.

“The fifth, final window is you, all of us in this room,” Prendergast said. “That could be the biggest game-changer in the world.”

He urged audience members to become involved with the anti-genocide movement by contacting Congress, the White House, and the local media, or just by relying on their own talents.

“The key is to see what kind of contribution you can make to the anti-genocide movement, and just do it,” he said. He recounted the story of one activist who planned a charitable poker tournament that raised more than $750,000 to donate to those affected by the conflict.

The easiest contribution that any individual can make, Prendergast said, is simply creating awareness about the conflict.

“If we make enough noise, we have a chance to make a difference,” he said. “We need to raise our voices as loudly as we can and say, ‘not on our watch!’”

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Club field hockey starts spring season with doubleheader

February 22, 2009

Jessica Dexheimer                                                                                                             Feb. 22, 2009

Elon University‘s club field hockey team kicked off the spring season with a doubleheader against Davidson College and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington on Feb. 22.

Elon sophomore Libby Dean keeps the ball from Davidson.

Elon sophomore Libby Dean keeps the ball from Davidson. (Photos by Jessica Dexheimer)

The Elon Phoenix soared over the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks with a 2-0 win, but later lost to the Davidson Wildcats with a score of 2-1.  

Because several of Davidson’s players were unable to attend the game, both teams were forced to play only eight players at a time, instead of the usual 11.

The game marked the beginning of Elon’s spring season, which will continue March 1 at High Point University.

“Our double-header was a great kick-off to spring season,” said Elon senior Molly Donahue. “We only had two weeks to practice, but we played great. Our girls had good stick skills and communicated really well. I’m excited to see what we can do with more time and practice.” 

Elon freshman Katherine Mantz dribbles the ball down Firehouse Field.

Elon freshman Katherine Mantz dribbles the ball down Firehouse Field.