On Nov. 14th SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and Rotary International co-sponsored a forum that was held at SPC’s Seminole campus titled “World Peace: Let it begin with me.” The forum opened by highlighting the work of an organization called Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace is an organization that aims to furnish the world’s next generation of leaders by exposing them to different personal perspectives that enable them to think more openly about conflicts around the world. The upcoming quote from Seeds of Peace’s charter best describes the ideas that they aim to promote:
“We now refuse to accept what is when we know what can be, if we truly implement these principles in our homes and our hearts. We refuse to be victims. We know it is possible to redirect human passions, even calls for revenge, toward the positive goal of creating peace.”
The forum panel was made up of local experts:
- Prof. Roy Slater, Moderator of the event, Associate professor of American Government, International Relations, and Model United Nations at SPC.
- Sane Haidara, an SPC student from Timbuktu, Mali, who is a refugee from that country’s recent military violence.
- Dustin Lemke, a member of the Religious Society of Friends and professor of Communication and Leadership at Hillsborough Community College.
- Prof. Randy Lightfoot, Professor of American Government and Model United Nations at SPC.
Professor Slater opened the discussion with some prepared remarks on the nature of education and peace, saying:
“Across the academic disciplines professors expect you to critique and ponder, to read, reflect on and analyze, to wrestle with the great questions of the day. A forum such as this, questions such as human rights violations, genocide, why people fight and the challenges of achieving peace.”
A stirring reminder of what it means to be a student of higher education. Throughout the forum there was a common thread: Peace starts with the individual. The panelists, especially Mr. Lemke, often emphasized the idea that people’s fear or emotional unhappiness could be motivators for conflict. While they do not necessarily cause war, they can provide a stepping stone for unpeaceful actions.
To the question of why people fight, Sane Haidara, who grew up in Mali said, “There is always a common denominator that we see. In Mali we are facing starvation, that’s a huge issue. There are human rights issues, equal rights for men and women, lack of educational opportunities, lack of jobs, “ He went on to say that, “until we fix those issues, until we create equal rights, social justice for all people, having a sustainable peace will remain, to me, difficult.”
Sane Haidara touched on an important point, that there can be no lasting peace while inequality and injustice remain. A little later in the forum Prof. Randy Lightfoot was asked what he saw as the biggest challenge individuals face in attaining peace. He said that, “A problem we have in this country, [is] we don’t listen to the points of view, of people that might be different than ours. There’s merit in that.” Professor Lightfoot underscores the idea that we should all respect one another, even if we differ on opinions. He also emphasizes the importance of listening and learning from people of differing backgrounds.
The final question that was asked was, “What is your definition of peace?” Sana Haidara said that peace was “Being able to go to bed every night without worrying about breakfast tomorrow.” It was a statement so profound and so foreign to the experience of most members of western society that I could practically feel the collective emotion of the audience.
Throughout the forum I couldn’t help but notice that the redeeming factors of all of the speakers’ opinions were based on the individual. The emphasis on the need for people to act peacefully in their own lives was so very apparent. The assertion that peaceful actions breed more peaceful actions gave credence to the idea that world peace is ultimately attainable.