By David J. Smith, November 2, 2015
October 30-31, 2015 the 3rd Annual Peacebuilding Conference “Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool” was sponsored by three Kansas City area colleges: Johnson County Community College, Park University, and Rockhurst University. Medical Missions Foundation was also a co-sponsor. The first day of the conference was held at Park University in Parkville, Missouri, and the second day at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas.
The conference drew an audience that included over 100 students, faculty, and members of the general public from the greater Kansas City area. Large student groups where in attendance from Johnson County Community College, Park University, and Rockhurst University.
The program on Friday, 10/30, included presentations on “Promoting Peace Through Education” by Judi Estes of Park University, “Using Comparative Philosophy to Teach and Promote Peace” by Dawn Gale of JCCC, “Teaching Empathy and Promoting Peace Through Exploration of a Unique Refugee Experience: Post-War Germany” by Gary Bachman of Park University, and “Using the Arts to Inspire Activism and Peacemaking” by Ira Harritt of the American Friends Service Committee. I had the honor of providing reflections on the presentations.
For the second day, 10/31, Joe Sopcich, president of JCCC welcomed the group, and Bill Kriege of Rockhust University served as the day’s moderator. Jamil Simon of Spectrum Media participated via Skype and shared about his upcoming film “Fragile Island of Peace.” This was followed by my keynote presentation: “Peacebuilding and Education: A Critical Nexus to Ensuring 21st Century Prosperity, Engagement, and a Better World.” Other morning presentations included physician Archie Heddings talking about his work with Medical Missions in Romania, Bonnie Alsbury of Park University presenting on the alternative spring break program she runs for nursing students, and students Michael Dean and Taylor Miller from Park University sharing their experiences Turkey as part of the Global Peace Journalism Project they worked on under the direction of Steve Youngblood.
In the afternoon, Abigail Hayo, founder of The Sirabo School Village talked about the program’s efforts in Mali; Brian Wright of the UN Association of Kansas City shared about UN efforts; Pamela Hawkins presented on her efforts at creating peace through art; Letitia Harman presented on the SEMA program and its impact on women’s education; and JCCC and Rockhurst nursing students shared about their experiences in Uganda. I also presented a session on careers in the field. Afternoon reflections were led by Bill Kriege from Rockhurst University.
The 2-day program demonstrated how several institutions working with private groups can work together to advance areawide peacebuilding efforts. During the conference community college students and faculty where able to collaborate with their counterparts from private 4-year universities. In this way, each partner brings to the table their unique assets and talents that can be used to promote a larger effort. Long term, a comprehensive Kansas City area peacebuilding resource center is planned.
If you are interested in next year’s conference or working with these institutions on peacebuilding contact Tom Patterson at Johnson County Community College (firstname.lastname@example.org), Steve Youngblood at Park University (Steve.Youngblood@park.edu) or Bill Kriege at Rockhurst University (email@example.com).