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Lunch series prompts debate

Christian Myers | Monday, September 3, 2012

A football game was not the only event to bring together the various groups within the Notre Dame community this weekend.

Hosted in the Oak Room of South Dining Hall on Friday, the first installment of this year’s Professors for Lunch series featured discourse among faculty, alumni and both undergraduate and graduate students.

The discussion focused on the book “Just and Unjust Peace” by associate professor of political science and peace studies Daniel Philpott.

Philip Muñoz, director of the Tocqueville Program for Inquiry Into Religion and American Public Life and associate professor of political science, created the Professors for Lunch series last year. He said part of the purpose of the series is to promote the work of professors like Philpott.

“One of the aims is to celebrate significant faculty accomplishments, like Daniel’s book,” Munoz said. “We have this world-renowned scholar down the hall, let’s have lunch with him and learn from him.”

Philpott spoke first, followed by comments on the book from Margaret Pfeil, assistant professor of theology, and Paolo Carozza, professor of law and director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. The professors then opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience.

Philpott said he agreed to participate in Professors for Lunch because the event is a valuable occasion for conversation.

“It’s a fantastic series,” he said. “This is just what we need at Notre Dame. Substantive interaction between professors and students,” he said. “College is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go deep into ideas and shouldn’t be wasted.”

Philpott discussed his book and its emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation as a means of bringing peace in the wake of civil war, dictatorships and other periods of turmoil.

“The central idea is the restoration of relationships,” he said. “This way of thinking comes to us from religious traditions. Religious traditions offer concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation that can inform a global conversation among the religious and the non-religious.”

He cited the ongoing peace process following the more than 20 years of war in northern Uganda as an example.

“When I visited [Uganda], I was told, ‘There’s an end to war, but no peace here,'” Philpott said.

He said a coalition of Ugandan religious leaders is advocating the philosophy of forgiveness and reintegration.

“Forgiveness was an important part of their portfolio,” Philpott said.

A rejection of the message put forth by a dictator or perpetrator of war crimes is another important part of the peace process outlined in his book, Philpott said.

“The ‘de-legitimation’ of the perpetrator’s message is something victims desire out of a sense of justice.” Philpott said. “It is symbolic, but as important as monetary reparations. The two go together.”

Philpott said the rejection of the perpetrator’s message often requires uncovering and publicizing the experiences of the victims.

“You want something that’s going to be seen as a national narrative,” he said.

In her comments, Pfeil focused on the importance of restorative justice to Philpott’s ideas. She said there is a need for more to be done in situations of systematic institutional injustice.

Pfeil said she decided to participate in the program because she enjoys the topic of the book.

“This is an area of scholarship of great interest to me, in particular the area of restorative justice,” she said. “In my work, I study restorative justice and Catholic social teaching.”

Carozza said Philpott’s approach to peace is better than the current conventional approach to human rights issues.

“It is contrary and superior to the dominant method by which human rights have been addressed for 60 to 70 years,” Carozza said.

The book also shows how reconciliation is reached over time, Carozza said, and it is not a concept that can be achievedin a single peace accord.

“Reconciliation is something that becomes a human experience,” he said. “It becomes the experience of a people and it emerges over time.”

Junior Neal Ravindra, one of three students helping to organize the series, said the event is beneficial to both students and faculty.

“This event is a great opportunity for students and faculty to meet in a forum and exchange ideas,” Ravindra said.

Muñozsaid the topics of the lunches are decided upon based on the relevance to the campus community.

“The goal is to create a forum where students and faculty can share a meal and learn from each other about a topic worthy of conversation and of interest to the community,” Muñozsaid.

The next installment of the series will be located in North Dining Hall at 12 p.m. Friday, and the discourse will focus on the Department of Health and Human Services healthcare mandate, Munoz said.