Campaign for Conscience

Sitting in the early morning sun outside Langson Library is a perfect place to eavesdrop on numerous conversations. The selection ranges from daily melodramas, juicy gossip and one-sided phone conversations to concerns about class and political debates about the presidential frontrunners. However, you won’t hear about the nearly 60 armed conflicts taking place around the world.
Hibernating in our state of academic bliss, a majority of UC Irvine students revel in this ignorance and remain unconcerned with the trials of those beyond our borders. On occasion an MSNBC special brings one of these conflicts too close for comfort and a melancholy mood descends on us for a few days while we contemplate the horror of thousands of people being killed monthly for a cause that is far in the past. But never fear, the Orange County sun will again break through the clouds, and the realities of daily life will push these uncomfortable thoughts as far away as the danger.
One campus club hopes to bring this to an end. Or more specifically, one young lady is going to extraordinary lengths to make these horrific events stare people in the face. Rebecca Westerman, a fourth-year art history major and 2008 recipient of the XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship, is the creator and president of Campaign for Conscience, which is hosting the first “Peace Flag Project.” Scheduled to take place in May, the project is a weeklong celebration of the peaceful resolutions of armed conflicts. It is an exercise in creating awareness and is designed to have maximum visual impact.
Between May 19 and May 23, the inner ring around Aldrich Park will be covered with approximately 1,000 “peace flags.” Each flag is covered in writing to describe a particular conflict. Various clubs on campus, including every club of a spiritual foundation, choose the compositions and conflicts of the flags.
Westerman’s inspiration comes from Tibetan peace flags, which have prayers of peace written on brightly colored square pieces of fabric. When the wind blows through the cloth, the prayers for peace disperse around the world. A second inspiration comes from her academic studies. The new concept of social practice art, or the artist being a “facilitator” for a community to make art, is increasingly popular.
“[The project was] reconciling in my mind how I thought studying art was useful to society in a larger way,” Westerman said. “I wanted to try to fuse that with more of what I actually did. I am also an artist. My first sort of fumbling attempt at incorporating all those things into my life was applying to the scholarship.”
In creating the Peace Flag Project during the eighth week of spring quarter, the UCI student body will become artists in the creation of awareness.
As a requirement for this vision, the campus community will need to take an active part in the week. Ideally, reading and taking an interest in the flags will open a dialogue about the issues. The highly visual nature of the project also forces even the most recalcitrant of students to confront the problems while traveling to and from class.
There will also be an option for students to create their own “peace flag.” They will be gathered at the end of the week and displayed in the Student Center.
Campaign for Conscience is demanding that participating clubs present their conflict using only citable and fair information.
“[Clubs must] approach [their] conflict in a compassionate way