Notre Dame prepares for Peace Conference
Kelli Smith | Friday, March 31, 2017
Designed to immerse students into dialogue related to peacebuilding, social justice and global issues, the 27th annual Student Peace Conference will take place in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies beginning Friday afternoon.
The two-day event was organized by a committee of students led by seniors Leah Landry and Victoria Lew. It will consist of documentaries, workshops, a keynote address, an interactive play, a poster session and many panels and individual talks related to its theme: “Pathways to Peace.”
“The conference is a way to share ideas and make connections among people of various backgrounds and belief systems, making it the perfect venue to find peaceful solutions to any social problem you’re concerned about,” Landry said.
According to Lew, the theme was selected to “address realities of peacebuilding in terms of concrete steps and goals,” and the conference will differ from previous years by featuring documentaries and workshops to demonstrate nonviolent communication and peace agreements.
“Peace becomes a lot more realistic when you are able to highlight the various pathways people took to get there,” Lew said. “We want our conference to challenge the idea of peace as idealistic, and invite attendees to learn how real pathways to peace can be formed.”
According to the conference website, topics to be addressed include “Refugees: From Displacement to Integration,” “Exploring Statelessness and Migration,” “Peace and the Military: Student Voices on the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy,” “Bridging Cross-Cultural Divides,” “Islam and Peace” and more.
The keynote address will be conducted by Nell Bolton, the senior technical advisor for justice and peacebuilding at Catholic Relief Services and an alumna of the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, the conference sponsor. Bolton will be presenting on “Binding, Bonding and Bridging: Building Blocks of Peace.”
“There are so many topics that our conference will address, and that’s what makes it so engaging,” Lew said. “Our presenters bridge peacebuilding with religion, science, sociology, history, film and much more.”
Over 250 people are registered to attend the conference, excluding scholars, students and activists from across the campus, country and world who are scheduled to present. Though registration is closed, students are free to attend any session.
“We have a huge mix of students and activists from Notre Dame and from schools across the world that will be presenting their work and research,” Lew said. “The conference always brings such a wealth of experience to campus, and I am excited for everyone to network among each other and build connections in the peace studies community.”
Landry said discussing topics related to peacebuilding in the conference’s “usually hopeful atmosphere” is especially important in today’s context.
“Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we all agree that we have serious problems that need solving, and if we can find a way to fix these peacefully, everyone benefits,” she said. “My hope is that every person that attends the conference leaves with a concrete idea of how they can contribute to building sustainable peace in their own community or area of interest.”