Monday, November 3, 2014

Park students shine at peacebuilding symposium
Should Joseph Kony be forgiven by Ugandans, and should Osama Bin Laden be forgiven by Americans?

These controversial questions were among those I posed during my keynote address Saturday, Nov. 1 at the symposium “Culture of Forgiveness: Peacebuilding Lessons from Uganda.” The event, held at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in the Kansas City area, was co-sponsored by the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

The forgiveness questions were part of larger discussion about the media’s role in the reconciliation process. My belief, I told the 80 or so attendees, was that media in Uganda and elsewhere have a responsibility to give a voice to peacemakers, to lead discussions about difficult issues (like forgiveness), and to not inflame or exacerbate otherwise volatile situations. For most of the audience members, this was their first exposure to the principles of peace journalism, and judging by their questions, they were intrigued by the concept.

In the afternoon, the symposium featured a number of informative break-out sessions, including several that presented details about the exemplary humanitarian medical missions (via the Medical Missions Foundation) that have been undertaken by nursing students from JCCC and other area universities. 

Three Park University students participated in a breakout session titled, “Students Making Peace.” Bailey Puckett told the gathering about her thousands of hours she has spent working with newly arrived refugees from around the world at Jewish Vocational Services. Doreen Nakagiri, who is from Kampala originally, gave an informative presentation about several youth peacebuilding initiatives in Uganda. Sarah Stout talked about how peace journalism students have contributed to peacebuilding initiatives in Uganda and Cyprus, where Stout worked with local journalists last March.

After the seminar, an attendee told me, “You are really lucky to have students like these at Park.” I told him that I couldn’t agree more.

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