LCC to host first Peace Conference

Published: February 25, 2008 12:00AM

If there’s an underlying theme to the first-ever annual conference at the new Lane Peace Center, it might be making peace among the peacemakers.

The center, part of Lane Community College, holds its inaugural Peace & Democracy Conference Friday and Saturday at LCC’s Center for Meeting and Learning on the main campus. Keynote speakers include Medea Benjamin, founding director of the human rights group Global Exchange, and Bob Wing, a long-time activist and author and a former leader of United for Peace and Justice.

Ticket prices range from $15 to hear a single keynote speaker to $120 for both days with meals. Registration is encouraged, although tickets can be purchased at the door.

Even among peace activists, conflicts arise over how best to reach the goal. LCC faculty member Stan Taylor, who teaches a year-long course on peace and conflict along with his other social science classes, said what organizers hope people take away from the conference is the idea that however they approach peace or their priorities for achieving it, the ultimate goal is the same.

“If we look at what might be called the ‘left,’ there are a lot of different perspectives on what it means to build peace,” he said. “Sometimes, instead of concentrating on the things we have in common, we focus on the differences.”

Over the two-day conference 25 presenters will give talks, hold discussions and take part in break-out sessions covering topics ranging from peace and spirituality to civil disobedience and direct action. Peace through social justice will be a central concept.

“We’re looking at deeper definitions of peace, not just the absence of war,” Taylor said. “Peace is rooted in social, economic, political, racial and environmental justice.”

LCC created the Lane Peace Center last year as part of a peace studies initiative that eventually will include a two-year transfer degree, speaker series and noncredit community education classes. The center’s first event was a talk by writer and activist Norman Solomon, author of “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.”

Initial funding for the center, about $50,000, is coming from an endowed gift that supports a different program each year. Taylor and Peg Allison, director of the Center for Meeting and Learning, are co-directors of the peace center steering committee.

Among the presenters at this weekend’s conference are Indian elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Leah Bolger of Veterans for Peace, Noah Mrowczynski of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, Dave Fidanque of ACLU of Oregon and Leah Coakley and Patrick Edelbacher of Tacoma Students for a Democratic Society.

Taylor said response to the conference, whose official theme is “Fostering Peace Through Education,” has been “extraordinary.” With the exception of the two keynote speakers, all the other presenters are volunteering their time.

The strength of the conference is in the breadth of the topics covered and the people discussing them, he said. Indigenous people, immigration, civil rights, anti-war efforts, environmental justice and spirituality are just some of the areas to be discussed.

The weekend will wrap up with a facilitated group discussion led by Benjamin and Wing that will focus on how to foster the local peace movement.

“We’ve brought all of these different perspectives together,” Taylor said. “We hope to build bridges to see if people can find ways to engage in activities toward peace that transcend their own group.”


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