Catholic News Service reports on the recent Playing for Peace basketball game at CRS partner Villanova University that helped to raise awareness about conditions in South Sudan.
WASHINGTON (CNS) — When the Villanova Wildcats beat the Seton Hall Pirates 84-76 in men’s basketball Jan. 18, it wasn’t just a hard-fought victory in the tough Big East conference. The game also was a win for the people of the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, thanks to a partnership between Villanova University and Catholic Relief Services.
Billed as “Playing for Peace,” the game gave student ambassadors an opportunity to showcase the struggles the people of South Sudan are experiencing as they work to build a nation from the rubble of a decades-long civil war.
Jennifer Joyce Kissko, an assistant professor in the university’s Center for Peace and Justice Education, said the event offered the chance to present an important concern to a wider audience that extended beyond the Villanova community.
“It means a lot to use athletics as a vehicle. We thought we could engage people’s attention for social justice,” she told Catholic News Service. The event was more than a year in planning, Kissko said, adding that she hopes it will become an annual event that helps focus the campus on the important work of CRS somewhere in the world.
Players from both squads wore special T-shirts in pre-game warm-ups that read “Playing for Peace” on the front and “Stay with Sudan” across the back. Augustinian Father Peter M. Donahue, Villanova’s president, read a brief statement at halftime about the university’s efforts on behalf of South Sudan. Fans received a handout as they entered the arena offering background on the country and ideas on how to get involved.
Father Donahue introduced several of lost boys from Southern Sudan who were driven from their tribal villages and separated from their parents during the height of their country’s civil war; one was a recent Villanova graduate. Several South Sudanese diplomats made the trip to Philadelphia for the game and also were introduced to the crowd.