The Playing for Peace initiative was launched as a response to the October 5, 2010 campus visit from a delegation representing the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Bishops visited the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies to seek support for a just and peaceful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan. Following their appeal, Coaches Kevin Corrigan and Mike Brey joined forces with Notre Dame Student Government and organized the Playing for Peace 3v3 Basketball tournament and Stand with Sudan Peace Rally. Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution expressing the student body's solidarity with the people of Sudan, and calling upon the University to "express its support for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement" and to "call attention to the urgency of securing a sustainable, just peace for all Sudanese."
Coupled with the guidance of Catholic Relief Services and the Center for Social Concerns, both programs spearheaded a call to advocacy on behalf of the people in Sudan and collected signatures that would be delivered to the White House. Later that December, a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, including representatives of the men’s lacrosse program travelled to Washington DC to lobby both elected and appointed government officials to support peacekeeping efforts in Sudan during the lead up and eventual expiration of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Most notably, the delegation met with Samantha Power in the Eisenhower Executive Offices where they had a one hour meeting expressing their concerns on behalf of the Notre Dame community.
Samantha Power probably said it best when she said this initiative is “significant and unusual,” as she applauded the unique nature of the event which brought a community together around sporting event while leveraging the opportunity to raise awareness, educate and advocate for a serious social justice concern.
In January 2011, a peaceful referendum took place and there was a unique opportunity for the people of South Sudan to exercise the power of self-determination. The south voted for independence and in July of 2011 became the world’s newest nation.
Sudan continues to face many challenges; as a new nation, South Sudan to be very vulnerable to internal and external conflicts, violence and injustice continue to cause suffering in Darfur. A direct benefit of this initiative is the increase in gratitude, felt by P4P participants for the peace and freedom we enjoy here in the United States.
In August of 2011, Kevin Dugan, manager of Youth and Community programs in the Department of Athletics travelled to South Sudan to work with the new government and the South Sudan Basketball Federation on a Playing for Peace basketball tournament, concert and peace rally in Juba. The event was broadcast all over South Sudan on both television and radio and helped bring the P4P initiative full circle.
Moving forward, the goal of this initiative is to use the transformative platform of sport to promote peaceful, harmonious communities at home and abroad.