An audience of about ten students gathered in a small Kalmanovitz room for a screening of “When the Night Comes,” a United Nations film by Bobby Bailey; the event was sponsored by University Ministry, The Interfaith Group, The FaithsAct Fellows, the ASUSF Mission Committee, and the Campus Activities Board.
The film–which came at an appropriate time, as World Malaria Day is on Sunday, April 25–discussed the plight of Ugandans suffering from the modern-day third-world plague of malaria, and called audiences to action to donate money to buy mosquito bed nets for Africans, as well as to participate on sleep-out demonstrations in major U.S. cities this Sunday. While San Francisco was not listed as an official Sleep Out to End Malaria city, it was mentioned in the film as a possibility, if people chose to start their own event in the city.
Junior Alia Al-Sharif, who organized the event along with Laura Gengler and Joe Famularo, said that while the event’s audience was sparse, she thought “the showing had a large impact for those who were present. I believe the film did an excellent job in portraying how prevalent and often how unavoidable it is in the lives of people from Uganda.”
Malaria awareness is just one of the issues concerning the Interfaith Group on campus, which seeks to gather people of different religions together to aid such shared causes.
“Conflict we have seen has been prevalent between those of different faith traditions within the world,” said Al-Sharif, “and through connecting through Interfaith work, individuals of all faith traditions are able to not let the differences get in the way, and work together in a commitment against disease and poverty.”
Al-Sharif herself feels strongly about the cause. “It is evident that malaria is devastatingly affecting those countries that do not have the resources to fight back or protect themselves. The work of Interfaith with the support of the global community, hopes to eradicate the injustice death due to Malaria by 2015,” she said. “I urge students to learn more about the movement, and what they can do to help aid those in their combat against malaria.”
Discussion of such issues and movements is one of the best avenues to help increase awareness and knowledge, Al-Sharif suggested. “Having a dialogue after the showing, I felt, was so important,” she said. “Often we watch a film or documentary and are unable to speak with others in the room about their experience, what they took away from it, or what resonated with them. The showing for me was a call to action, a call to the Interfaith movement of eradicating deaths due to malaria.”
However, only eight audience voices were present in the actual dialogue. How to increase student turnout, and get the news out there of future events?
“With the support of the theology department, in the future perhaps [we could use] them as a channel to reach out to more students,” said Al-Sharif.
For now, Al-Sharif says that there are a few other similar events planned.
“Next week, we will be tabling out in Harney Plaza, and hope to have another movie showing of “When the Night Comes” next week,” she said. In the longer run, “We hope to have an Interfaith Council on campus next year, and also formation of Religion 101 – Interactive Learning Sessions each week. The head of the University Ministry, the Theology Department, and University Life have been very supported in our efforts to pursue Interfaith dialogue, and awareness on campus.”
And what about the sleep-out? While there is no word of a citywide sleep out, USF may well end up doing its part. “People did express much interest in having a sleep out under the nets, and we hope to host it during dead hour of next week,” Al-Sharif said. “An afternoon under the nets, in solidarity against malaria!”