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U.S. Institute of Peace educators facilitate conference

Speakers from the United States Institute of Peace’s (USIP) education program will present a peace conference on “Causes of Conflict, Conditions for Peace” Friday, March 30 in Cataldo Hall and Saturday, March 31 in Jepson Hall at Gonzaga University.

Attorney David Smith, the USIP education program’s senior program officer, and Betty Bigombe, a senior fellow with the institute from Uganda, will open the conference with addresses at 7 p.m., Friday, on the conference’s sub-theme, “African and Developing World Case Studies.”

The Saturday program begins at 8 a.m., with the following workshops until 4 p.m.:

• Linda Bishai of the USIP will speak on “Sudan: The Unfinished Peace.” She develops secondary and university curricula in international relations, conflict resolution, human rights and peace studies.

• Winners of the college students’ pre-conference essay contest will receive awards and give a presentation.  Essays, which are due March 5 to, are to focus on media violence and resources to shift to a culture of peace.

• David, whose emphasis is secondary and university education in peace studies, conflict resolution and legal studies, will lead a USIP simulation exercise for students.  He was in Spokane in May 2006 to meet with faculty and students at Gonzaga University interested in establishing a peace studies program.

• John Caputo,  professor in communication arts at Gonzaga University and director of the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media will discuss “Media, Violence and Youth.”

• For a session on “Elections:  Opportunities for Peace or Warnings of War?” Dorina Bekoe, a researcher with the institute’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention will talk on lessons from Nigeria and Ghana, and Dan Chirot of the University of Washington and a former institute senior fellow will reflect on the role of elections in solving conflicts. 

• Father Patrick Barraza of Gonzaga University and Our Lady of Lourdes will speak on “Interreligious Dialogue.”

• David and Betty will also lead a presentation on child soldiers.  Betty helped in peace negotiations in Uganda to end the Lord’s Resistance Army’s insurgency and was a cabinet minister working to pacify North and Northeastern Uganda.

Sessions are geared to practicalities and changes needed if the hope for peace is to be realized.

The U.S. Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan, national institution established and funded by Congress to prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, to promote post-conflict stability and democratic transformations, and to increase peace-building capacity, tools and intellectual rationale worldwide.

Established by the U.S. Institute of Peace Act in October 1984, the institute provides education, research, training, resources and direct involvement in peace-building, using knowledge to promote peace and curb violent international conflict.

Recently, it has worked on peace-building in such areas of the world as Afghanistan, the Balkans, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, Liberia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda and Sudan.

Judy Butler of Pax Christi, which is helping sponsor the event, said the conference is for people looking for a way to express their values of peace, nonviolence and conflict resolution.

“A peace conference is a way to nurture university and high school faculty and students, people in religious and community organizations, and individuals concerned about peace,” she said.

 “Our awareness of the problems of violence in the local and international community will benefit by bringing together concerned people to learn, discuss and express our hope for a community and a world that solves problems without resorting to violence,” said Judy.

For information, call 323-3955 or email

Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © March 2007