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August 2019
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United Nations Relations

NGO Week of Spirituality Focuses on Reconciliation

New York, USA - An event entitled, “Peaceful Action through Reconciliation” was held at Pace University, in honor of United Nations Day and the 2009 UN Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns. The Oct. 28, 2009, event was sponsored by the Campus Peace Centers Working Group of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns – New York and the Free Speech Forum at Pace University, co-sponsored by the Office for Student Success at Pace. As a member of the working group, the Universal Peace Federation helped coordinate the event.

After a musical interlude of original songs on peace by Justin Kim of Irvington, NY and an opening meditation by Swamini Sri Lalitambika Devi of the Lalitamba Mandiram, Leonard Burg from the Office for Student Success welcomed everyone to Pace and congratulated participants for being part of such  a significant event. “The peace movement of today is not something anti-, it is a pro-peace movement,” he said. He invited everyone to garner as much as they could from their attendance.

Deborah Moldow and Neil Altman, co-founders of the Campus Peace Centers working group, conveyed their initial inspiration for the Working Group. “I’m from the 1960s,” said Neil, “and when I looked at today’s campus I thought, ‘where is the peace movement of today?’” The Campus Peace Centers were created as a network that would help coordinate the peace work on various campuses to help build a culture of peace one campus at a time.  “The culture of peace has so many dimensions, meditation, sports, arts, dialogue and study.  We wanted to make sure that the framework of the campus peace centers was flexible enough to embody all forms of the culture of peace,” shared Deborah.

Professor Meghana Nayak, Associate Professor at Pace Manhattan, gave the opening remarks. Reconciliation, she said, “is reconciling the lost humanity ... of victims and perpetrators.” In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, she urged participants to awaken their internal “rabble rouser.” “Conflict resolution is not [a problem] out there; we need saving ourselves. If we can’t create peaceful relationships, how can we create peace?” She closed by commenting, “A lot of people think peace is a passive way of being, I think it is the most radical way of being.”

Student Peacebuilding panelists came from vast experiences and locations, each making significant contributions. Todd Brogan, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and organizer of Peace Day@UW 2008, recounted his efforts on the campus in organizing Peace Day@UW.  He emphasized the importance of partnership and marketing for peace.

Rami Quibain, Junior Board Member of Seeds of Peace at Manhattanville College, showed a movie clip of the Seeds of Peace camp in Maine that brings together children from the Middle East in a safe space to show that they are all human. He made two simple statements, “Peace is not the easy way,” and “peace is not made by governments. It is made by people.” He shared intimately the stories of former “seeds” that are now in the fields of peace making significant contributions to peace in various parts of the world.

Victoria Roomet, Chair of Martin Luther King Day of Service 2005-2008 at Brandeis University, described how she brought her campus together through interfaith and service.  “We were all like one big family,” she said. She encouraged the audience to know that everywhere “small ripples of peace” can be made to reach the corners of the world.

Lorindra Pinder, member of Free Speech Forum, Model UN and the Office for Student Success at Pace Manhattan, pointed out that the peace movement of today is alive and well and chooses “discourse as the new way of creating a movement.” She outlined how she has fostered peace and reconciliation through organizing various dialogues. She observed that, “College campuses are where the seeds of tomorrow are sown.”

Maria Gabriella Espin of the Vassar International Student Association shared about the expanding activities of VISA, starting from a cultural festival expanding to a cross-cultural understanding program called, “language in motion” and a humanitarian project called the peace village in Haiti. The motto of VISA she said, is One Love. "We all smile and cry in the same language. Peace takes love and faith, faith in the good of human beings.”

Inspired by the students’ accounts, faculty members offered encouragement and advice. Joan Katen, author of the recently published book, Love at the Edge, a love story of a Palestinian and Israeli, and professor and co-founder of the Peace and Justice Studies Minor at Pace University in Pleasantville, urged students to “never give up.” She lauded the insight of each of the panelists and told them to “keep going,” especially when things get difficult. She shared her own challenges in getting the book published, and how perseverance paid off.  Professor Nyack reminded everyone that “there is a part in all of us that wants to be at peace” and that it takes a “holistic” and “imaginative” approach to make peace happen.

Neil Altman, who teaches at New York University, brought out the example of Gandhi to show that non-violence takes courage but also strategy.

During the audience response period, students and faculty engaged in an invigorating discussion of the challenges to peacebuilding, the meaning of reconciliation.  They shared personal stories of the miracle of transforming hate to love. Consensus was made that peace-building begins in the heart of each person, and that every peacemaker should take time to touch base with the peaceful place within.

This is the third year of the Campus Peace Centers, and with each year, a new Campus Peace Center has been launched.  A commitment was made to establish Campus Peace Centers at Pace Manhattan, Pace Pleasantville, Vassar and Manhattanville College. Also, interested parties should join the Campus Peace Centers portal online at campuspeacecenters.net.

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