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Peace Conference strives for understanding

Laura Vilim | Monday, March 26, 2007

Government induced famine and economic ruin in North Korea. Authoritarian rule in Burma. The use of child soldiers in the war in Northern Uganda.

It’s easy for young adults to turn a blind eye to the world’s most intractable conflicts and human rights abuses for the simple reason that they are intractable. If the planet’s greatest leaders, largest international organizations and most well-run grassroots campaigns have not yet found the solutions, how are college students supposed to add anything to the debate?

The belief that we as young adults are unable to help or to understand the cultures of those that are far away from us contributes to the lines that we often draw between “us” and “them.” “We” live here and prescribe to a certain set of cultural norms. “They” live there and have different traditions, languages and social customs. The demarcation of “us” and “them” advances such social injustices as war, racism, religious fundamentalism and genocide. Worse yet, it prevents people from one culture and way of life from seeing people from another way of life as equally valuable. It prevents people from seeing their counterparts in other religions, countries and ethnicities as human beings.

This weekend, March 30-31, Notre Dame’s annual student-run Peace Conference is highlighting the work ND students and others from around the world have done to bridge the divide between “us” and “them.” Through two days of panel discussions, workshops and cultural events, these students and professionals in the field of peace and conflict resolution will attempt to “unmask the unknown” – to better understand others and, in the process, better understand themselves.

The Peace Conference, which will be held in the Hesburgh Center for International Peace Studies will serve as an arena for young adults to present their research on the root causes of the above-mentioned intractable conflicts of the world. Their contributions give lie to the fact that young adults cannot make a difference in the world around them. They prove that resolving atrocious human rights abuses and preventing them in the future can be as simple as erasing the lines that divide “us” and “them” so that all people in every corner of the world are treated by all others with respect because of their common humanity.

The conference formally begins at 5 p.m. on March 30 with an address by the keynote speaker on peace and conflict transformation. The panels and workshops will run throughout the day on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4:15 p.m. For a full list of the weekend’s events, please visit http://www.nd.edu/~krocinst/peacecon07.shtml

Laura Vilim


Howard Hall

March 26