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Pushing the conversation on peace

With many comparing the war in Iraq to a quagmire and the specter of a potential invasion of Iran looming, some students feel peace has been overlooked as a viable alternative to war.

The sponsors of USF’s first Peace Week are hoping to change this with four nights of events aimed at promoting peace literacy and proving that peace is a better option.

“(The goal of Peace Week) is to promote the fact there is an alternative to violent conflict and to promote peace literacy,” Peace At Large president James Hudson said.

The four-night event will feature different perspectives on Iraq, as well as a lecture on peace literacy by speaker Colman McCarthy.

Peace literacy is not part of students’ curriculum at any level, so he believes this is an excellent opportunity for students to gain new perspectives not taught in the classroom, Hudson said.

“One of Colman’s biggest messages is that peace isn’t taught in this country,” he said. “We are taught about wars … Peaceful resolutions are not covered. It’s not in our mindsets.”

Pilar Saab, of Women of Faith Building Communities, was also influenced by McCarthy. She heard him speak in Washington D.C. at the United States Institute of Peace Conference.

“It was my idea to bring Colman McCarthy to speak and then we looked to the University to help sponsor the event,” Saab said. “I think everyone’s interest and enthusiasm is what really made it happen. One idea snowballed into Peace Week.”

Saab said Dr. John Arnaldi and his students made Peace Week happen. Arnaldi arranged for the speakers to come, as well as assured that there were sponsors for the event that will run through Wednesday.

The film The Ground Truth, which revealed the battles faced by veterans while in Iraq, as well as the conflicts they encountered upon returning home, was presented Sunday night.

Monday featured the play “What I Heard About Iraq” by Simon Levy, which provided opinions of leaders, civilians and soldiers.

These two events were not meant to sway the audience, but to provide them with the means of developing their own perspective on the issue, Hudson said.

“The perspective is always pro-war or anti-war. People are entrenched in their positions,” Hudson said. “[These events] are getting the issues on the table rather than being pro- or anti-war.”

Hudson said he believes students rarely get the opportunity to hear the type of first-hand experiences provided in these events.

Tonight’s lecture will be given by Noah Merill, a Quaker aid worker and activist, who will share his experiences of working with Iraqi refugees. Wednesday’s speech by Colman McCarthy will focus on the importance of preaching peace.

McCarthy is also the founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington D.C.

Hudson and Saab said they hope educators attending the event will become encouraged to encompass peace education in their own curriculum. Teachers from the University and the public school system have been invited.

The sponsors of Peace Week hope the event becomes annual.

“It’s stuff you’re not going to see on the news or hear about elsewhere,” Hudson said. “The biggest message is there’s an alternative way to dealing with things. It (peace) is worth considering.”