Villanova University’s Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors will lead a December 3 campus vigil in support of the 13.6 million Syrians and Iraqis forced to flee their homelands in advance of the violent extremist group, the “Islamic State” (also known as ISIS). A candlelight ”Season of Solidarity” vigil will be held from 4:30-5:15 p.m. at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on campus as part of the University’s partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The program will include an opening prayer by The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova University President. Kim Pozniak, CRS’ Communications Officer for Global Emergencies will speak about the situation on the ground in the affected region.
“Pope Francis and all previous Popes along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have all supported public policy measures that protect refugees and migrants because they are very vulnerable and represent the millions of people seeking refuge from persecution, starvation, violence and difficult living conditions,” said Barbara Wall, PhD, Vice President for Mission and Ministry. “As a people of the Gospel we are called to protect the life and dignity of all people. “
Participants in the event are invited to join in writing letters to legislators while attending the vigil as part of an initiative led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and CRS. The letters will call on the United States Congress to address the immediate needs of refugees, build long-term solutions for displaced people, and work for a lasting peace in the region.
A capacity crowd is expected at St. Thomas of Villanova Church, as was the case at last fall’s Syria Vigil and at a November 2010 Vigil for Peace in Sudan. This year’s event is part of the Ambassadors’ “Season of Solidarity with Families Fleeing Conflict in Iraq and Syria” which began Nov. 27. Fundraising to meet the emergency need of the displaced and refugees will take place throughout the week.
Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors are trained by and maintain a close working relationship with CRS, the third largest U.S. international private relief and development agency. The Ambassadors gain in-depth knowledge on Fair Trade, food security, global health & HIV-AIDS, immigration and peace building. In turn, they educate, resource, and contribute to existing student organizations, university programming, and in generating new initiatives on these issues.
“What the Ambassadors have come to realize about solidarity,” Suzanne Toton, EdD, Coordinator, University Partnership with Catholic Relief Services, and an associate professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department said, “is that it requires keeping faith with our suffering brothers and sisters until this crisis is resolved.”
For more information about the “Season of Solidarity” click here.