The Global Village Foundation and the University of La Verne’s Journalism Department hosted a forum titled “Practicing Nonviolence Amidst War and Conflict” on March 24 in La Fetra Auditorium. The forum featured a panel of peacemakers and representatives of peace-oriented organizations, including Waqar Al-Kubaisy, who shared her experience of living and working in a Iraq, and Sarah Holewinski, director of Campaign For Civilian Victims in Conflict, who spoke about her recent trip to the war zone.
A panel of renowned peacemakers brought the effects of war home by sharing their ideas and experiences in an effort to encourage people to fight for peace.
Almost 100 people gathered at La Fetra Auditorium on March 23 for the peace forum, “Practicing Nonviolence Amidst War and Conflict.”
“This is a way to honor and bring attention to people who have spent their lives trying to bring people together,” said Tripp Mikich, coordinator of the event.
The forum included several keynote speakers including Mark Manning, Sarah Holewinski, Dr. Waquar Al-Kubaisy, Le Ly Hayslip, Michael Nagler, and Claude Anshin Thomas.
The audience sat in silence as filmmaker Mark Manning introduced the short film, “Caught in the Crossfire: The Untold Story of Falluja.”
Gasps filled the air as images flashed across the screen. The audience covered their mouths in shock as women and children ran in panic as explosions destroyed their homes.
“This is one of the few times you show a film and there is no applause after it,” Mikich said.
Falluja was a town with a civilian population of approximately 250,000. The town was destroyed Feb. 8, 2004, when it was attacked by the United States. Thousands of people were forced to flee their town, leaving behind their homes and, in some cases, their family.
“It was a town of people; of children,” Manning said. “They were told to leave or to die.”
Al-Kubaisy recipient of the Courage award by the Global Village Foundation at the 2006 Bridge of Peace Awards has distributed donations to several towns in Iraq, including Falluja, and encouraged peace by sharing how she too was forced to leave her home.
“We can never promote our life without the feeling of peace,” Al-Kubaisy said. “In our country we have no peace at all.”
Al-Kubaisy was a professor at The Medical University in Iraq and was forced to leave her country after her home was raided and her husband was kidnapped.
Her husband returned home injured, but alive. Since then Al-Kubaisy has traveled all over the world campaigning for peace.
“I don’t think there is a word much nicer and more beautiful than peace,” Al-Kubaisy said.
Holewinski, who is the executive director of the campaign for Civilian Victims in Conflict, also shared her experiences in her recent trip to Iraq and told stories of families whose lives were destroyed as a result of the war.
“It’s something we don’t necessarily get here from watching CNN,” Holewinski said.
She also spoke about her work with CIVIC.
“In Marla’s memory we are calling government to abide by international law,” Holewinski said. “We won’t leave congress alone.”
Marla Ruzicka, from Lakeport, Calif., founded CIVIC with hopes to help those who have been victims of the war in Iraq. Ruzicka was killed a year ago in Iraq.
Ly Hayslip, is the author of “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places,” which became the basis of Oliver Stone’s film, “Heaven and Earth.”
She grew up amid the Vietnam War and is the founder of the Global Village Foundation, as well as the Bridge Peace Awards.
The foundation’s main goal is to provide humanitarian aid to Vietnam and Thailand.
Ly Hayslip spoke of the effects of war in general and specifically of her experience during the Vietnam War.
“War has been created by men who do not quite understand about compassion,” Ly Hayslip said.
“It is the same kind of war except in different times and in different countries.”
Claude Anshin Thomas, an ordained monk in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition who served in Vietnam, spoke of his experiences as a U.S. soldier and about how nonviolence is choosing to act without violence once and again regardless of the circumstance.
Anshin Thomas also spoke about sacrifices needed in order to stop violence.
“How much killing are you willing to accept so that you don’t have to pay more money for your latte,” Thomas said. “We can bring an end to this if we are willing to live differently.”
Michael Nagler spoke of the United States’ involvement in the war.
Nagler is the founder of the peace and conflict studies program at the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of “Is There No Other Way? The Search For a Non-violent Future,” which received the American Book Award in 2002.
“I think my country has become a menace to human survival,” Nagler said.
Nagler also addressed the need for more young people to get involved. Out of the 100 people that attended the forum, 20 were students.
“I was a little surprised to see the demographics,” said Joanna Arevalo who graduated from Berkeley in 2003 with a degree in media justice. “It was really disappointing.”
Chris Poulson, professor of management and human resources at Cal Poly Pomona, agreed.
“It’s so important that we as professors bring it to the classroom,” Poulson said.
The forum ended with the audience expressing concern and inquiring into different ways to help promote non-violence not only in Iraq and in the U.S. but in the entire world.
“Peace is the first step; it is the main step,” Al-Kubaisy said.
Laura Bucio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.