Sunday, March 21, 2010

First, a quick note to express my sadness at the violence last week in Uganda, where government troops shot and killed three protesters at the site of a suspicious fire that destroyed the burial site of tribal kings. Uganda is a troubled place. I will be there for six months beginning in July in hopes of improving things just a bit. It's a daunting task.

Learning Peace

From the Parkville Luminary

As any teacher can tell you, one of the most exciting things about the profession is the opportunity it affords for the teacher to do some learning as well. This is especially true in my Peace Journalism class at Park University, where not a day goes by without the students showing me a new perspective on things.

One recent example centers on a video conference “visit” to my class by Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero from the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. He risked his own life to shield 1,268 innocents in the hotel he managed. Obviously, as a witness to genocide, he had a great deal to teach all of us about peace, war, forgiveness, and the role of media in inciting violence.

The students’ reactions to Mr. Rusesabagina’s “visit” were revealing.

“It was very eye opening to hear the degree that journalists in other countries enjoy limited freedom…The idea of being put in prison, or to death, because of events or stories being reported in the media is shocking to say the least. It makes me value the rights we maintain as a media and as individual reporters in this country. …In my time her at Park, this is one of the most valuable experiences I have had to date,” noted one student.

About Mr. Rusesabagina, another student commented, “He epitomized everything that we are trying to achieve in Peace Journalism….Not only did he avoid any inflammatory, graphic, or emotion inspiring words, he himself did not present any malice towards the people who had harmed him or killed his family.”

“(After learning about the Rwandan genocide), I find it is one of those things you wish wasn’t true…It is a perfect example of how much influence media has on people. With this influence, we as journalists have a huge responsibility to keep what we report from being something that causes conflict…,” wrote a third student.

One key topic addressed by Mr. Rusesabagina was forgiveness, and its role in forging a peaceful future. One student said, “His thoughts on forgiveness were understandable to me. I’m not sure that I could forgive either, but he wishes better for the children and future generations. He understands that it is important to forgive and move on.” Another student said, “(Rusesabagina) said that forgiveness is not possible until there has been some sort of justice, and though I tend to agree, that raises the question of whether forgiveness that is contingent on justice is actually forgiveness.” While discussing forgiveness, Mr. Rusesabagina told my class, “I hate you and you hate me. But, what can we do so that our children can live together in peace?” Another student commented, “What struck me as a surprise is that Mr. Rusesabagina could easily place the blame of this tragedy and point fingers. But he realizes that doing so would be of no use to future generations….Yes, forgiveness might be the best solution, but right now it is not so simple.”

Indeed, in studying peace, war, violence, and media, nothing is simple.

Park steps up to help Haiti

Congratulations to supporters of Park University’s tremendous effort to aid those in need in Haiti. Park University students donated $2,000 to Heart to Heart International for Haiti earthquake victims. The donations were accepted by Park alum Andre Butler, who is the chief advancement officer for Heart to Heart.

The Park community also donated 514 care kits filled with personal hygiene products valued at over $3500, and $500 needed to mail the kits. All told, Hernandez figures Park raised more than $6,100 for Haiti relief.

The Haiti relief campaign was spearheaded by Park sophomore Leonel Tchuente-Sila, and coordinated by Michael Hernandez, director of International Student Services.

Well done.

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