The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Bishop Tutu to visit campus

Meghan Martin | Thursday, September 11, 2003

Nineteen years ago, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to bestow the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize on then-Bishop Desmond Tutu, an Anglican cleric who devoted his life to the eradication of apartheid and the promulgation of peace in his native South Africa.

Eight years ago, then-South African President Nelson Mandela appointed Archbishop Tutu chair of the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the committee assembled by the South African government to probe the flagrant human rights violations that had occurred since 1960 and the nation’s deepest struggles with apartheid.

Today, the Joan Kroc Institute’s Research Initiative on the Resolution of Ethnic Conflict will host Tutu as the keynote speaker for its “Peacebuilding After Peace Accords” conference, the culmination of a three-year project dedicated to the study of peaceful post-conflict resolutions in countries once ravaged by political and civil strife.

The archbishop’s lecture, entitled “The Struggle for Social Justice in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” will outline the work of Tutu and others in healing South Africa’s deep social wounds after the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994.

Tutu, despite his retirement as Archbishop of Cape Town in June 1996, has continued the peacebuilding work that first brought him to the attention of the Nobel Committee twelve years before.

“We invited him, since the whole conference focus is on post-accord rebuilding,” said Rashied Omar, RIREC coordinator and doctoral candidate at the University of Cape Town. “We thought he’d be an appropriate speaker … He will look at the South African process … some of the strengths and even perhaps some of the things that might have been done differently.”

To celebrate the arrival on campus of such a well-respected individual, the Notre Dame Folk Choir will open Tutu’s speech with a collection of songs to pay tribute to the connection between the goals of the conference and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“As part of the keynote, we will also have music and reflection to commemorate the date,” Omar said.

The conference which Tutu’s speech will headline is the capstone for what has been a collaborative initiative on the part of a group of distinguished international scholars and peace-builders, people whose mission it has been to reduce and get to the root of ethnic conflict around the globe. Omar said that the focus of RIREC’s research has been countries whose political conflict has been resolved on an official level, but still have a great deal of social and cultural healing to do before peace is restored.

“One of the goals of the project is to produce a number of scholarly volumes that will address … the legacy of violence, how to transform the consciousness of a community, how to reintegrate insurgent groups into a regular army … to reintegrate young people who may have been scarred by this violence … and to implement transitional justice,” he said.

Tutu’s position as a religious leader not only set him apart from the members of the RIREC research team, but it made him particularly appropriate for participation in the conference, Omar said.

“He’s not an academic; he’s a religious individual and a practitioner of peace,” he said. “He’s a very important figure in this world. Religion is often associated with conflict in this world… [Tutu] and others like Dr. Martin Luther King … represent wonderful icons of individual leaders who have drawn in their faith commitment – and Notre Dame being a university of faith, it’s a wonderful example to students that faith can help to heal the world.”

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held in McKenna Hall today at 7:30 p.m. Omar and Kroc Institute Associate Director Hal Culbertson said they expect a large crowd at the event.

“We don’t have a venue large enough for the amount excitement that we’ve heard on the part of many many people,” Omar said. “We will transmit the speech into adjacent rooms at McKenna Hall.”

Culbertson said that additional overflow audiences will be sent to DeBartolo 101 to view the speech on a closed-circuit television system.