Common Ground for Peace

Panels showcase diverse views

Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years in Iranian prison on charges of espionage.

She was released after four months on the fraudulent charges. She said the experience tested her faith in the goodness of humanity. But through the support of her cellmates, friends and family around the world, she still has hope that global peace can be achieved.

“It is through compassion and kindness that borders no longer define us, nor do our politics, policies or governments,” she said in an email. “What defines us is the human spirit alive in us all.”

She’ll bring that hope for global peace to Syracuse University on Oct. 8. Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, is one of many panelists coming to SU as part of “Common Ground for Peace,” a two-day peace forum.

Two panels will be held on Monday, Oct. 8, in Goldstein Auditorium. The first panel, titled “The Rise of Democracy in the Middle East,” runs from 9-11:30 a.m., and the second, “Shifting the Global Consciousness,” is from 1:30-4 p.m.

The events are hosted by SU and the SU Humanities Center. Both panels will begin with an introduction from Gregg Lambert, founding director of the SU Humanities Center, and will be moderated by Ann Curry, NBC News’ national and international correspondent.

“The Rise of Democracy in the Middle East” will focus on the necessary pathway that emerging democracies in the Middle East must take, said SU Trustee Samuel Nappi, who was involved in planning for the panel.

“We hope that students will get a further understanding of the common values we share across race, culture and nationality — and how these values, coupled with an active desire to connect and respect others — will have enormous benefits for us all,” Nappi said in an email.

The morning panel consists of Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer; Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace laureate and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency; James Woolsey, energy and national security specialist and former director of Central Intelligence; Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s School of Public Service; Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and, of course, the 14th Dalai Lama.

The second panel, “Shifting the Global Consciousness,” will discuss the way people view themselves in the global context, Nappi said.

“We have far more in common than we do differences, yet so often we concentrate our focus on the values we do not share, rather than those we do,” Nappi said. “This session will cast further light on those commonalities and will seek to identify ways we can bring those shared values to the forefront.”

Global consciousness is an important step toward peace, Nappi said. When people establish a common ground, the path to peace is that much easier, he said.

Saberi will sit on the second panel. She’ll be joined by the Dalai Lama, Ebadi, ElBaradei, human rights activist Martin Luther King III and A.R. Rahman, a singer-songwriter, music producer and philanthropist.

Students expressed excitement for this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity while they waited in line at the Schine Student Center to pick up panel tickets on Sept. 25.

“I’m going to be skipping classes, but I can make up the work.” said Ben Kintish, a junior mechanical engineering major. ”I won’t be able to see this again.”

For Chinenye Monde-Anumihe, seeing the Dalai Lama was a huge draw. Monde-Anumihe, a senior international relations major, heard him speak on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building before. She said her personal views align with the Dalai Lama’s.

“He’s so bubbly and laughs a lot,” she said. “It was so easy to look at him as a human being.”

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