Benefit concert hope to bring relief to refugees in Darfur

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    By Spencer Flanagan

    Shattered lives, hopeless futures and non-existent dreams prevail throughout Darfur, a region of Sudan in Africa, as government genocide continues.

    Now Utah residents have a chance to help; a chance to provide aid and comfort to the millions of people suffering.

    Pennyroyal Cafe, located at 155 N. University Ave., will host a benefit concert tonight to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur, move students to action and bring the event close to home.

    Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have already been massacred. An estimated two and a half million are now living in refugee camps throughout the surrounding area.

    “For about six years now there has been this problem going on in Darfur, it started out a kind of a little bit of a civil war,” said Mallory Hales, junior and past co-president of the local Darfur Action Committee. “The Sudanese government sent in some people to kind of quash the civil war that was going on there and it has just escalated from there. There have been cease fires but just in the last month bombing has started again in Sudan.”

    The benefit concert will feature local acts ByNow, Jenna Kimble, RuRu, Daniel Olguin and Othello. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and a suggested donation of $2 is encouraged, but students can give as much as they are willing to donate. All proceeds will go to the American Refugee Committee, an international non-profit organization that has been helping provide food and medical supplies to refugees in Darfur for the past few years.

    “The main goal is to let people know about the conflict in Darfur and most importantly that there are things we can do,” Hales said. “We want to focus more on the fact that by writing one letter or getting two more friends to write two more letters, we can actually make a difference.”

    Letters will also be available at the show for people to sign and send to local congressmen. Concert-goers will have access to congressmen”s phone numbers to call and leave messages.

    “There have been so many political leaders that say ”Well we didn”t know our constituents even cared about this so why would we get involved?”” Hales said. “Especially with this issue in Darfur where we don”t have as many political interests in the region, it”s so important that we let our government know we”re not going to stand for this.”

    Nathan Robbins, owner of the Pennyroyal Cafe, opens his cafe as a meeting place for many community events like meetings and panel discussions.

    “From the very beginning, Pennyroyal has been a very community-minded establishment,” Robbins said. “We were contacted by one of the people in the Darfur committee to see if we”d be interesting in hosting the event and we always are. Not only is it good for business, but it really touches on one of our objectives which is to get people involved in the community.”

    Besides raising awareness of the issue in Darfur, the main goal of Pennyroyal is to bring the focus of issues such as this to a more local level.

    “I respect what they”re doing because if you can care about someone that you”ve never seen, just the concept, or just the notion of people suffering… then you can start to care about that within your community,” Robbins said. “You can start to look at people around you. Its just about seeing outside of yourself I guess.”

    One of the four aims of BYU is lifelong learning and service. Hales said she believes that BYU students especially have an obligation to be aware of issues and feel a desire to help.

    “I think that when we leave BYU it”s not going to be enough to be involved in things that are local because the world is our campus,” she said. “We need to be aware of international issues and more importantly take a stand for the right in those issues. This is part of our ”lifelong learning and service” in the world, and the students working on this concert are taking that aim of BYU seriously.”

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