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Initiative Promotes Peace

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Students for Global Peacebuilding (SPG) and the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding held their first annual Dalai Lama Scholars Peace Week at the Student Center from Tuesday, Jan. 28 to Friday, Jan. 31.

Brendan Yu | Photography Intern
Brendan Yu | Photography Intern

Peace Week is a new initiative meant to introduce students to the concept of peacebuilding and nonviolence in order to craft a more compassionate community on campus, according to 2013-2014 Dalai Lama Scholar Elizabeth Koppe, the president of SPG, and Blanca Castro, the vice president of SPG.

“Be a Catalyst for Change” was the main theme of the four-day event, inspiring students to a make a positive difference in the world. Events were led by experts and program directors of the peace-field, survivors of violence, founders of nonprofits, members of SPG, and a professor of altruism and compassion.

Over 100 attendants came to Peace Week’s kickoff live performance showcasing the talent of student artists. The large turnout was a pleasing surprise to Haruna Asakawa, SPG’s public outreach coordinator, who hoped the event would raise students’ awareness of SPG.

From guitar playing, free style dancing, to spoken word poetry, students demonstrated their creative expression of peace at the performance. Aliza Hava, an award winning songwriter and peace builder, was a featured guest artist.

Wednesday, Jan. 29’s keynote event featured James Doty, a Stanford University professor and neurosurgeon. An audience of over 100 attended Doty’s talk titled, “Creating a Culture of Compassion.”

The first part of Doty’s lecture discussed how humans are evolutionarily hardwired to be altruistic or self-sacrificing and how modern fear, anxiety and judgment prevent humans from behaving that way.

“What we wish for each of us is that we look at each other not as a number, a color, a gender, or by a sexual preference, but recognizing us here [in our hearts]. The only way that can occur, is if instead of looking down at somebody, you look at them eye to eye because that is what preserves a person’s dignity … and it’s what allows you to ultimately connect authentically with another person and allows each of you to live up to your own potential as a human being,” Doty explained.

Part two of Doty’s talk was a recollection of his struggles through college and how he lectured a premed committee on what it means to be compassionate — ultimately convincing the committee to provide him the highest letter of recommendation for medical school. He was a UCI student with a 2.53 GPA and without a degree at the time. He was accepted to Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana.

“It is easy to put labels on people because you don’t have to learn about them or know who they are. It makes judgment easy. When you take the time to listen to an individual’s back story, it is extraordinary what you will learn about somebody,” Doty said.

The day following Doty’s talk, multiple workshops were organized by OC Human Relations council and a UCI alumna as part of day one of Peace Week’s Peace-In-Action Summit to equip attendees with a repertoire of peace building skills. Two panels were held on the same day to share personal stories against violence and using forgiveness to overcome tragedy.
A third panel was held on the last day of Peace Week, addressing the status of peace education at a global scale. A networking event took place after the panel that encouraged students to get in contact with nonprofit organizations and programs within the peace field community.

The final event of Peace Week was a public forum that allowed peace educators, students from Southern California and participants to discuss the vision and future direction of expanding peace education.

Karina Hamilton, the director of Dalai Lama Scholars, noted the hard work and time the two Dalai Lama scholars, Koppe and Castro, had put into organizing Peace Week. The two scholars started working on this project since May of last year when they were selected as recipients of the scholarships.

“Each of them were incredibly creative, collaborative, and got a lot of students involved,” Hamilton said. “It was really exciting to see it all come together.”