Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

St. Mary celebrates global peace to raise awareness

September 27, 2007

Peace can only be achieved when mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness reaches across the world.

That was the message sent to participants of this year's International Day of Peace Conference at the University of St. Mary.

Speakers, faculty and students met Friday, Sept. 21 to celebrate a resolution that signifies the United Nations' desire to devote a day to promote the ideals of peace and non-violence.

Sally Shatila Kader, president and founder of the United States Federation for Middle East Peace, began her speech to the small gathering on the St. Mary campus by explaining that it was everyone's responsibility to make the changes needed for a more peaceful existence.

"No matter political affiliation, faith, culture, ethnicity, our world has shifted since 9/11 and as members of the human race we must strive for non-violence and coexist," she said.

Kader said that if the world is going to achieve mutual understanding, the people must look back and remember lessons from history to get through difficult times. History can be used, she said, to make better choices for the future such as forgiving those who committed past mistakes. She said that the world can't change history but its people can change their attitude toward it.

The key, Kader said, was to foster mutual respect, compassion and trust for fellow human beings. She said that reaching out to one's opponent was the first step to putting down the weapons.

"I believe we can all link our hands and hearts together to get peace for ourselves and our children," she said.

These may seem like lofty goals, but to George Steger, director of the Lawrence D. Starr Global Studies Institute at St. Mary, they can be accomplished and the process begins with individuals.

Addressing the audience, Steger said it was knowledge that would lead to peace. He said Americans don't know enough about other countries' cultures and beliefs and that St. Mary was trying to do its part to help.

Through seminars, classroom lessons and missionary trips, Steger said the university wanted to raise students' global awareness so after graduation they can make informed decisions regarding international issues. He said it was the job of all educational institutions to do the same.

Charles Bankart, assistant vice provost of international programs at the University of Kansas, agreed with Steger and spoke about KU's efforts toward the same goal.

Bankart said that it was the universities that were training the world's future leaders, which means it's their responsibility to make sure students are prepared. He said global awareness runs deeper than becoming fluent in a foreign language, but takes a true understanding of countries and their international roles.

At KU he cited the Global Awareness Program and the Global Partners Program that work to recognize students who are committed to global education.

He said over 2,000 students have participated in the programs proving that students are beginning to see that there is a world out there that deserves our attention.

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