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Peace Day celebrated with “He Named Me Malala” film screening

“He Named Me Malala” emphasizes development in peace building. Photo contributed
"He Named Me Malala" emphasizes development in peace building. Photo contributed
“He Named Me Malala” emphasizes development in peace building. Photo contributed.

By Mineta Suzuki

World leaders, NGOs and even Ringo Starr celebrated The International Day of Peace on Wednesday, Sept. 21, but at Grinnell, the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) Program Committee observed the day with a film screening of “He Named Me Malala.” The acclaimed documentary traces the footprints of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for women’s education, Malala Yousafzai, and her backstage identity crisis.

“The decision to show a film was decided by the students and faculty of the PACS committee as a simple, singular event to bring people together for the evening and engage the theme,” wrote Simone Sidwell, coordinator of the PACS Program, in an email to The S&B.

The committee’s choice was thought especially suitable for this year’s Peace Day theme, “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

“One could argue that education is one of the most important and basic ‘building blocks’ for sustainable peace and development,” Sidwell wrote. “It’s a basic human right, one that the Taliban brutally attempted to withhold from girls by destroying schools.”

Sidwell expressed hope that by recognizing Peace Day, students will realize their potential to promote peace.

“On one level, I hope that Peace Day inspires students to think about concrete ways to promote peace building … to believe that we can all make a difference,” Sidwell wrote. “On another level, I hope that students simply take as inspiration what they need most in their lives at this moment in terms of peace and nonviolence.”

International Day of Peace began in 1981, when the United Nations declared that the third Tuesday of September, should be dedicated to promoting the ideals of peace and alleviating tensions around the globe. In 2001, the U.N. passed a resolution designating Sept. 21 as a day of annual global ceasefire.

“Hopefully [this campaign is] planting a seed that grows into a sustainable world view itself,” Sidwell wrote.

To spur the bud of change, Grinnell’s Peace Day activity was linked to the United States Institute of Peace via social media, using the hashtag #PeaceDayChallenge. According to figures, the hashtag has been used by 21 million people in 129 countries since last year.

Grinnell’s efforts toward peace-building extend beyond the annual celebration. Last fall, Professor Timothy Dobe, Religious Studies, taught a class called “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies,” which will be offered again next semester by Professor Gemma Sala, Political Science, due to growing interest.

In addition, the PACS program recently hired its first faculty member, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Johanna Solomon. Solomon is currently teaching a course on conflict resolution and is a guest lecturer for the PACS department.

Wednesday’s film screening was not the only event on the PACS agenda this semester. Another timely event, “Can Any U.S. President Bring Peace?” is coming up in October and will feature George Lopez, a well-known scholar and peace builder who co-teaches the Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies course, along with Grinnell faculty.

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