Monday, January 31, 2005

Constructing Peace: Marquette University

Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, is a revered university, somewhat less prone to the failings of modern college mayhem and mania, such as those described in Tom Wolfe's new memoir of college life, "I Am Charlotte Simmons". The Princeton Review named Marquette one of the best universities in the Midwest and among the top 20 schools "where students never stop studying." It is among the top hundred universities nationwide.

One of the reasons for their academic focus and social relevance is their roots as a Jesuit university. This translates into a holistic education focus, rather than a limited view of life. A number of fine schools the world over are from this tradition. In India, for example, while the Jesuit fathers were known for their quick anger and painful caning rendered for light trespasses, schools like St. Joseph's were also renowned for their academic rigor and excellence.

Every February, Marquette University takes a look at it's Jesuit mission in Mission Week. The theme for this year's Week is "Constructing Peace". There is a cornucopia of events, lectures and workshops planned, including a photo exhibit by Michael Collopy, noted photographer, with his exhibit "Architects Of Peace" - images from the exhibit are available online. The exhibit includes visionaries like Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Dr. C. Everett Koop, Thich Nhat Hanh, Elie Wiesel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King and many more.

The keynote speaker is Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, of whom I wrote recently. He is the founder of the Gandhi Institute. His keynote address will be webcast, and archived online. A brief bio:
Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of India's late spiritual leader, Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi. Growing up under South Africa's apartheid was difficult, humiliating and often dangerous. Enduring bigoted attacks from Euopean-African youths for not being "white", and from Native Africans for not being "black", increased the anger that Arun Gandhi bore as a young man. Hoping that time with his grandfather would help the twelve year old Arun control his rage and deal with prejudice through nonviolent means, his parents took him to India to live with "The Mahatma" (great soul) in 1946.

Arun's stay with his grandfather coincided with the most tumultuous period in India's struggle to free itself from British rule. His grandfather showed Arun firsthand the effects of a national campaign for liberation carried out through both violent and nonviolent means. For eighteen months, while Gandhi imparted lessons to his grandson, the young man was also witnessing world history unfold before his eyes. This combination set Arun on a course for life.
Arun and Sunanda(his wife) moved to Oxford, Mississippi in the United States in 1987. At the University of Mississippi, they collected material to compare race issues in the American south, color discrimination in South Africa, and the caste system in India. In October 1991, the Gandhis founded the "M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence". Its mission is to examine, promote, and apply the principles of nonviolent thought and action through research, workshops, seminars and community service. The Institute is located at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arun is also a scholar-in-residence.

He is sure to provide some interesting insights into living, and constructing peace.


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