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Brown Bag Lunch Discussions promote peace talks

CLARIFICATION: In a previous version of this article, the definition of the natural resources curse was unclear. The natural resources curse is an unproven theory about the relationship between an abundance of resources and slow growth.

Gales of laughter and the smell of cookies fill the room. People sit around the brown wooden table, talking and enjoying the cookies — fresh, round cherry ones decorated with peace signs.

The Slutzker Center for International Services has hosted Brown Bag Lunch Discussions from Monday to Thursday to celebrate the upcoming International Day of Peace. As part of Eat Together for Peace — a project undertaken by the Syracuse University Humanities Center — students, faculty and staff are welcome to bring their lunches to the center and join the discussion about world peace. The aim of the project is to explore hospitality and the arts as pathways to peace.

Each day, about 35 students from all over the world — including Peru, Japan, South Korea, China and Germany — attended this service. Even though the event is hosted in the Slutzker Center, which mainly serves students from abroad, several American students also participated.

Discussion leaders from the Fulbright International Education Exchange Program, the flagship exchange program funded by the U.S. government, chose different topics for each day.

“Peace is very important to our future, to everyone’s future. It doesn’t matter what country that you are from. And I always remind Americans that they are internationals, too,” said Elane Granger, the associate director of student services at the Slutzker Center. “They are part of the responsibility of the globe and international community. We are on the same boat.”

The program’s policy is to be inclusive, Granger said, which means the events that are organized are not just for international students, but also for the whole student population. The idea is not to look at the student body in terms of populations, but in terms of groups.

Sheng Yu, a graduate student studying statistics, is from China. Yu recognized peace is the goal that everyone tries to reach, but different governments tend to choose different approaches.

“Peace is an international issue,” Yu said. “But when the governments deal with it, it always depends on their own, internal situations and concerns their own benefits.”

Anna Ebers of Estonia was Monday’s guest discussion leader. She spoke about natural resources and peace.

“Natural resources can create a lot of conflicts. We have participants from many different countries,” Ebers said. “They told us how their countries get influenced by the natural resources; either they lack or have an abundant supply of them.”

Ebers is a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate student who is currently working on a project to bring solar electricity to the village of Mezquitic in Mexico.

Countries with an abundance of natural resources have low economic growth, a relationship known as natural resources curse that is unproven, she said. Angola has been cited as an example of this theory. It is a country rich in diamonds and petrol chemicals, and experiences civil wars and conflicts over its natural resources.

At this point in the discussion, a student from Angola joined in to say the only way to stop the conflicts is to have a good government.

Ebers also said peace is very fragile. It is difficult to create, but very easy to destroy.

Granger encouraged all SU students and faculty to go to the Quad and celebrate International Day of Peace on Friday. The event will feature a moment of silence, a spiritual moment with hearts full of peace for everyone in the world, she said.

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