Human rights events focus on dialogue as a powerful tool for achieving peace

The power and potential of respectful dialogue as a means to achieve peace is at the heart of a series of events planned for this week on the Keele campus.

The events, which have organized by the University’s Centre for Human Rights, include the "Find Your Peace" exhibit in the Vari Hall Rotunda that starts today and continues until March 6; a panel discussion on peace-building and conflicting rights on March 2; a screening of the award-winning film Another Way of Seeing Things on March 4; and a live broadcast in the Vari Hall Rotunda of the proceedings of a panel discussion and conference on competing human rights that will be taking place at the University on March 5 and 6.

Each event is part of a much larger and ongoing series of initiatives by the Centre for Human Rights known as the Share Ideas, Respect Differences campaign that was launched October 2009 during York’s inaugural Inclusion Day conference, says Noël Badiou, director of the York Centre for Human Rights.

"The Share Ideas, Respect Differences campaign has been very well received by students, staff and faculty and other universities expressed an interest in this initiative, says Badiou. "Following the October launch of the campaign, the centre has been busy planning and organizing an ongoing series of events to continue to foster and promote the sharing of ideas through respectful dialogue."

Most recently, says Badiou, the centre hosted dialogue on the topics of religion and Lesbian, Gay, Bissexual & Transgendered issues. The dialogue, which was held in early February, was very productive, says Badiou, "while there were very different points of view, the session proved that is it possible for dialogue on difficult and challenging issues.” 

This week’s "Find Your Peace" efforts involve a series of partnerships between the centre and national and international organizations. All of the events are designed to bring new ideas and perspectives to the University community about the importance of respectful dialogue and sharing of ideas.

The "Find Your Peace" poster exhibit in Vari Hall was created by Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promoting peace, culture and education through personal change. "The exhibit brings together the ideas of hundreds of people and organizations dedicated to finding a path to lasting peace," says Kris Osborne, senior adviser for education & communications in York’s Centre for Human Rights. "The exhibit was created by SGI to promote awareness of human rights’ focus on respect for the dignity of all people. SGI was a key contributor to the launch of the United Nations World Program for Human Rights Education in 2005."

Left and below: Posters that are part of this week’s  "Find Your Peace" exhibit. Images courtesy of SGI.

The exhibit consists of 15 large format double sided posters which bear inspiring and thought-provoking comments from the world’s most respected leaders and builders of global peace. "Find Your Peace" will be on exhibit this week in the Vari Hall Rotunda and is free and open to the public. .

On Tuesday, from 11am to 1pm, in 106 Accolade West Building, Initiatives of Change, a diverse, global network committed to building trust across the world’s divides, will partner with the Centre for Human Rights to present a panel discussion on the organization’s mandate and how dialogue has been a positive force for change in countries experiencing conflict. Comprised of people of many cultures, nations, beliefs and backgrounds, Initiatives of Change is an NGO committed to transforming society through changes in individuals and relationships, starting in their own lives. "The members of the group will speak about programs that are focused on building peace, making changes in society and conflict resolution," says Nythalah Baker, senior adviser for education & communications in York’s Centre for Human Rights. "Initiatives of Change members will also present information on the CAUX Forum for Human Security that is taking place this July in Switzerland, and about courses and opportunities they offer that geared towards youth."

On Thursday, March 4, from 12:30 to 1:30pm, in 390 York Lanes, the Soka Gakkai International Buddihists at York student club will be hosting a screening of the film Another Way of Seeing Things. Based on an essay by peace builder Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist leader, peacebuilder, writer, poet and educator, the film challenges the dangers of stereotyping and the negative perception it breeds. The film won the "Best Short Film" honour at the 2004 Tiburon International Film Festival. F

The capstone event for the week is a live broadcast, in Vari Hall, of a panel discussion and conference about competing rights. The broadcast is part of a larger academic and policy development conference that is taking place at York on March 5 and 6. Both the panel discussion and conference are a joint initiative between the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the York Centre for Public Policy & Law and the York Centre for Human Rights.

Members of the University community are invited to attend the live broadcast of presentations and discussions on human rights and public policy topics. Topics that will be discussed by panellists at the event are: Philosophical Approaches to Competing Rights; Legal Frameworks; Approaches to Balancing Competing Rights; Competing Rights in Context; Creed & Competing Rights; Competing Legal Perspectives on Competing Rights; Social Policy & Citizenship Perspectives on Competing Rights; The Role of Societal Perspectives in Competing Rights Policy; The Media’s Role in Competing Rights Policy; and Towards a Policy Framework.

Participating in the panel will be representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the York Centre for Public Policy & Public Law, the York Centre for Human Rights; and competing rights experts and academics from York and institutions across Canada.

"Each of these initiatives brings new perspectives and ideas about how to conduct a dialogue and the importance of it," says Badiou. "Ultimately, you need to have a dialogue to get to peace."

For more information on this week’s events, or to learn more about the Share Ideas, Respect Differences campaign, visit the York Centre for Human Rights Web site. 

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor