Students host peace conference
Andrew Thagard | Friday, March 26, 2004
The annual Kroc Institute-sponsored Student Peace Conference, which organizers say will be the biggest and best attended in the event’s ten-year history, kicks off this afternoon at the Hesburgh Center.
The two day event – completely organized and run by undergraduate students – draws national and international participants to campus for lectures, roundtable discussions and workshops aimed at promoting a more just society.
“I’m just elated about this,” said Nadia Stefko, a senior English major who is co-chairing the conference along with sophomore Monica Jacir and a committee of 25 students. “It’s going to be a great group of people. It’s [awesome] to see them all get together and talk about something they’re passionate about.”
The conference opens with dinner at Greenfields CafÃ© in the Hesburgh Center, followed by a keynote address by Mariclaire Acosta, an internationally renowned human rights activist from Mexico.
“She’s done some phenomenal work with human rights in Mexico,” Stefko said. “We thought she’d be ideal in terms of the mix of personal stories and scholarly [approach].”
The conference continues Saturday with five sessions in which participants can choose between moderated discussions and debates focusing on war and peace, reconciliation, social justice and updates on service projects carried out within the South Bend community.
The events are predominately led by graduate and undergraduate students from Notre Dame but also include presenters from other colleges and universities. Participants will have the opportunity to hear a presentation by Elvia Alvarado, a peasant leader in Honduras, focusing on human rights issues and land reform struggles. Conference organizers collaborated with the Progressive Student Alliance, Peace Coalition, Institute for Latino Studies and Kellogg Institute, among other sponsors, to make Alvarado’s visit to campus possible.
“She does a lot of work with human rights and land reform,” Stefko said. “Her speech will be in Spanish … but there will be a translator there.”
The conference concludes Saturday at the Grotto with a vigil against hate crimes. Afterward, those interested will have an opportunity to take salsa dance lessons back at the Hesburgh Center.
The conference has been daunting to organize and publicize, particularly for undergraduate students, said sophomore Mary Beth Welch, a member of the event’s publicity committee. Nevertheless, organizers said that they are confidant the event will increase awareness of important issues among the Notre Dame community and beyond.
“I hope this will [happen] in a spirit of scholarly activism. Everyone coming here is interested in peacemaking and peace building,” Stefko said. “The world is sitting around debating [these issues] … We’ll be making these decisions in 20 years. We wanted to talk about what the world will be like when we’re in charge.”
Registration for the conference will take place this afternoon from noon until 5 p.m. in the atrium of the Hesburgh Center, though Notre Dame students are free to attend any of the events without formally registering, Stefko said. Over 100 people have registered for the event thus far.