Student Peace Conference strives to promote peace-building initiatives
Nicole Simon | Monday, April 16, 2018
The annual Notre Dame Student Peace Conference, a Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies sponsored event, took place Friday and Saturday at the Hesburgh Center to encourage students to have discussions about peace-building and social justice.
The conference was organized by senior co-chairs Elizabeth Hascher and Erin Prestage, who said they have been planning the event since September.
“Something that’s hard when you plan anything this big is that you have to rely on other people,” Hascher said. “There were some bumps along the way, but ultimately we had so much help from our professors, our advisors [and] the other students on the committee who showed up early and stayed after we told them go home.”
In addition to professors and advisors, the co-chairs said they worked with students who were part of the academic committee, hospitality committee or publicity committee.
“I think with any event it’s always challenging because obviously not everyone is going to be as excited as we are because we spent the last eight months working towards this,” Prestage said. “I definitely think our committee members rose to the occasion and made sure that what we envisioned the conference to be like not only would go that way but would go so much better.”
This year’s theme was ‘Toward Just Peace,’ a topic chosen by Hascher and Prestage, they said, because of its applicability to other areas of interest outside of peace.
“We were hoping to get more presentations and papers talking about the intersections between justice and peace,” Hascher said. “We had felt that this was something that can be overlooked in a lot of conversations because sometimes justice and peace are not necessarily compatible, and we want to challenge people to think about getting to a place where they are.”
The universal nature of their theme attracted a more diverse group of students to the conference this year, Prestage said.
“I think our theme was so inclusive towards justice rather than just different ways of peace, which is what it has been in the past,” Prestage said. “It focused a little bit more on the compatibility between the two themes; I think it welcomed a lot more majors that otherwise wouldn’t really be interested in just a conference about peace.”
Hascher and Prestage said that although the conference’s goal was to promote discussion about issues related to justice and peace, they hoped it would accomplish more than conversations.
“It’s one thing for us to have these conversations, but we’re really hoping that people will feel compelled to go out and do something,” Hascher said. “Because if we’re just talking about it, if we’re not actually doing something, we’re not showing up, we’re not speaking out, we’re not protesting and organizing and generally engaging with experiences of violence, we kind of lose the point.”
The highlight of the weekend for Hascher and Prestage, they said, was their keynote speaker Alexis Templeton, an activist who they discovered in the documentary “Whose Streets?” when the Center for Social Concerns sponsored a screening of it last semester.
“Their presentation exceeded all my hopes for this conference,” Prestage said. “They really provided a wake-up call to everyone who was at the conference to that fact that words only mean so much if you’re not showing up and actually putting action to what you’re talking about.”