LV event mimics Afghani experience

Faculty and students gathered in the Quad on Tuesday to erect a tent city. Primarily sponsored by the Peace Studies Program and Model United Nations, the tent city was aimed at raising awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The event included an open forum for students and faculty to discuss the war. / photo by Juan Garcia
Faculty and students gathered in the Quad on Tuesday to erect a tent city. Primarily sponsored by the Peace Studies Program and Model United Nations, the tent city was aimed at raising awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The event included an open forum for students and faculty to discuss the war. / photo by Juan Garcia

by Crystal Apilado
Features Editor
and Anna Roy
Assistant Features Editor

Tents were pitched and a picture of a dove hung in the Quad as part of Tent City, a multi-faceted event organized by the Peace Studies Department, the Model United Nations, and other students and faculty.

More than 100 participated in the 24-hour sleep-over event, which began Tuesday.

It was designed to educate the University of La Verne community about the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan by simulating the Afghani refugee’s plight, said its organizers.

Debbie Roberts, minister for the Protestant Campus Ministry, said that Tent City originated as a “handful of ideas” about the war on terrorism.

“What we mostly hear about is our own country’s side of the war,” Roberts said.

She added that the committee wanted to show that taking a pacifist position is not the same as being passive.

Organizers began setting up the canvas tents and large canopy at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. Several were pitched for participants to sleep in.

Prior to the event, participants were encouraged to fast from sunrise until sunset Tuesday as a tribute to the Islamic tradition of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast for 21 days during November and December.

Many Afghani refugees are starving on a daily basis.

“It’s to feel what the hungry people feel in Afghanistan (the) emotions and starvation that they feel that I just suffered today,” said Carolina Quinteros, a senior international business and languages major.

Anthony Granillo, senior political science major, also took part in the fast.

“The fast was to gain knowledge,” said Granillo. “When you’ve been deprived of so much, you learn to appreciate the smallest things.”

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Zareem Noory, a member of Christians and Muslims for Peace spoke about Afghanistan.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” she said.

Sophomore Elissa Salas, senior Anthony Granillo, and Gary Hogle, information technology specialist at the Learning Enhancement Center, get ready for bed in the Quad. The Tent City was occupied from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday. Students and faculty also participated in a fast from sunrise to sunset Tuesday, ending with a common meal. / photo by Juan Garcia
Sophomore Elissa Salas, senior Anthony Granillo, and Gary Hogle, information technology specialist at the Learning Enhancement Center, get ready for bed in the Quad. The Tent City was occupied from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday. Students and faculty also participated in a fast from sunrise to sunset Tuesday, ending with a common meal. / photo by Juan Garcia

She added that difficulties have arisen because of language differences among the various ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

Noory also talked about the history of the failed Russian take-over of the country.

“Nobody is talking about who’s going to take care of the city and who the next government will be,” she said.

She added that 97 percent of the population is illiterate and that finding a leader that the people accept will be a difficult.

“The Afghani people are tired of fighting poverty is very hard,” she said.

A sharing circle followed the speaking event. All participants agreed to several rules, including a one minute time limit on speaking.

“There were a lot of opinions expressed there,” said Roberts.

Among those who shared were several staff and faculty members who opposed the Tent City as one-sided.

“I wanted another viewpoint to be told here. That’s all I wanted,” said Linda Bearman, administrative assistant.

In response to Tent City, Bearman circulated a letter signed by several faculty and staff outlining reasons they were supporting the war and the actions of the U.S. government.

At the event some said they were in favor of the retaliation.

“I think that its ironic how we can focus on the plight of the Afghani people and yet completely ignore Veterans Day,” said James Breitling, senior political science major, in reference to the holiday which took place the day before Tent City.

“We look abroad when really we should be looking at home on some issues.”

But anthropology professor Kim Martin countered: “I think we need to think about all the different options.”

Sanela Hadzihasnovic, a senior broadcasting major added: “War is something really, really ugly. (And) there is no person in this world who has a right to say ‘Oh I’m better than you because I have the power.’ Violence produces more violence.”

Roberts said the sharing circle was a learning experience for everyone.

“I learned it’s important to learn from the people who oppose you,” she said.

But, added English professor Brian Dolinar: “We should try to reach conclusions in our discussions rather than vent our own opinions.

“Everybody got up and gave their little minute talk but nobody really responded to each other,” he said.

Later in the day, featured speaker Randy Miller, a part-time professor of public relations, addressed the media’s role in covering the war and in general.

“In a perfect democracy the media would ask questions, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen on the onset of war,” said Miller.

Tuesday evening speakers included Muslims who shared about Islam and Ramadan.

Anis Ahmed explained that during Ramadan, practicing Muslims refrain not only from eating but also from drinking, smoking and sex.

“I see fasting as a detoxification and cleansing process for my mind, body and soul,” said Ahmed.

He then presented everyone with a date, traditionally eaten by Muslims breaking their Ramadan fasts.

Afterward participants ate a meal donated by Aramark Inc.

Following dinner Richard Harris, president of the Southern California United Nations Association gave a briefing about Afghanistan.

His organization is collecting food and money to donate.

Later participants gathered around the canopy and listened to Steve Kinzie, assistant director of the learning enhancement center, play songs of peace on guitar and banjo.

About 25 people actually spent the night in tents slept or under the stars

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, there was another sharing circle. And, to end the event an interfaith service was held during which leaders from several different religions shared from their Holy Scriptures. Participants sat in a circle and lit candles at the end.

“My feeling is that all of us who participated, benefited a lot of knowledge,” said Kinzie. “It was really a gift.”

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