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Peace Through Service

How do we overcome conflict to find peace?  What causes conflict in the first place? Through a series of lectures from Ripon College professors of Communication, Religion, and Psychology, our Rotary club explored these issues in-depth.  What follows is a summary of each of the three guest speakers.

Jody Roy
Combatting Hatred and Violence

Dr. Jody Roy, communication professor at Ripon College, kicked-off the three program series on “Peace through Service.” Dr. Roy talked about hatred and violence, particularly as it related to young men and hate groups. In our society, the hater or aggressor needs to be someone that we learn from. Unfortunately, in our society we tend to be afraid of people who hate. Hatred can be considered the inverse of fear, and people don’t resort to hatred until they have hit rock bottom. They need somebody to listen to them, not talk to them. It is all about the need for help, but nobody noticed. The problem is exacerbated by large class sizes in the school system, as teachers are not able to address the students experiencing problems. Virtually all members of hate groups are recruited from the “victims” of bullying or harassment. Membership in a gang provides a source of protection. This is also true in the prison system, and gang affiliation in prison settings is likely to be along racial lines. Hate groups tend to recruit younger individuals for members, and have them perform many of the illegal activities. If they are charged in the court system, they are more likely to do juvenile time.

The leaders of hatred groups have become experts at recruiting members from “victimized” individuals. And the advent of social media has made both the method of expressing hatred easier, as well as the recruitment of members to hate groups. Victims may chose to lash out through violence, or withdraw, as with the number of suicides from victimized individuals.  

Dr. Roy provided resources of groups that are attempting to address the problem.

Brian Smith
Peace and Conflict in the Middle East

Dr. Brian Smith of Ripon College was the second of the three speakers in Ripon Rotary’s “Peace through Service” program. Brian gave an excellent presentation on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. He provided a handout that provided a historical timeline of events, going back to the scriptural origins in the Bible and Koran, up to the terrorist attacks that are occurring today. He also provide four maps that showed how Israel has both taken more land and had more people settle in Palestinian territory over time. Both sides believe the land is theirs, and because of the hatred and lack of trust, coming to a mutually agreeable settlement (with two states for two peoples) will be extremely difficult. Both sides are worried about their security, and want to limit the other side militarily. There is extreme suffering on both dies, and eventually this conflict could involve the entire world. Both Israel and Pakistan (which supports Palestine) have nuclear weapons, and Iran is working towards either developing or obtaining nuclear weapons. It is possible that the end result could be a nuclear confrontation.

There is a very deep hated for the other side, both sides believing the claims of the other side are illegitimate, complete distrust of the other side regarding safety and security, and no agreement among the other major countries in the world and the United Nations over a solution. Yet there needs to be a solution before the terrorist attacks that continue to occur exacerbate the situation to the point that it escalates into a nuclear war.

Peace Studies and Me (and You)

Dr. Hatcher spoke on “What does ‘peace studies’ have to do with me?”, and based his talk somewhat on his twenty plus years of experience with the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Wisconsin is the only State that has a peace and conflict studies program.

“The Wisconsin Institute is a unique and vital consortium of private and public colleges and universities dedicated to enriching academic and public discourse on issues of peace and conflict. The Institute is non-partisan and encourages debate and discussion of multiple perspectives, not only of foreign policy issues and global areas of conflict, but also of intercultural communication, gender relations, and environmental sustainability. At a time when virtually all institutions are seeking to internationalize and/or globalize their curricula and co-curricular programs, the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (WIPCS) is a statewide resource available to help.”

Dr. Hatcher made a number of points, comparing peace to an onion --- you can peel layers, starting with international relations between countries, and working all the way down to the relationship between two individuals. Negative peace, unwillingness to change, acceptance of things as they are, cooperation rather than competition (in games for example), fear and how one reacts to it, “us” versus “them” were among the terms that Dr. Hatcher referred to. He had a handout with some very disconcerting evidence of the nuclear destructive capabilities in the world, circa 1983. Dr. Hatcher has been working with prisoners, most recently at the Green Lake County jail, and is able to observe how “peace and conflict” function in a prison setting.