ORLANDO – With war in the Middle East, terrorism abroad and turmoil in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., peace may seem impossible. But peace studies is a growing discipline on college campuses – as students, faculty and the public study wars, political and social justice, conflict engagement and nonviolent strategies.
In anticipation of International Peace Day (Sept. 21), Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Initiative will hold a Global Peace Week from Sept. 15-21, a week of peace-related activities, speakers and documentaries that will be shown in conjunction with Orlando’s Global Peace Film Festival.
The theme for this year’s Peace Week is “coexistence.” This year, the college will show art from an internationally acclaimed art exhibit dedicated to peaceful coexistence, and will present five documentaries in association with the Global Peace Film Festival.
Most of the films will be followed by discussions with the filmmakers or a panel discussion with experts.
In addition, the Peace Week events will include two guest speakers, Carl Wilkens and Michael Savage. Wilkens, a humanitarian aid worker, was the only American who chose to remain in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, after the 1994 genocide began. Today, he is the director of a Seattle-based nonprofit, World Outside My Shoes.
Wilkens’ experience in Rwanda is chronicled in the new documentary, “I’m Not Leaving.” Wilkens, who stayed to protect Tutsis whose lives were threatened, ventured into streets crackling with gunfire and dealt daily with soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles so that he could take food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. Through archival footage, along with home video and eyewitness accounts, his remarkable story is told onscreen. The film – along with question-and-answer sessions with Wilkens – will be shown at Valencia’s East, West and Osceola campuses.
The series’ other speaker is Michael Savage, a former British military officer responsible for investigating genocide. During his service, Savage spent time in Central Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Savage now teaches history and genocide studies at Valencia College.
All events are free and open to the public.
The schedule of events is:
• Sept. 15-20, Osceola Campus: Students and visitors can view artwork from the internationally-acclaimed exhibition, “Coexistence: The Art of Living Together.” Organized by the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem, this large-scale art exhibit has traveled the world since 2001. Each piece – which measures three by five meters – sends a visual message of understanding and compassion. Selected works will be on display in the second floor of Building 4 on Osceola Campus.
• Sept. 16, Osceola Campus: Wilkens’ documentary, “I’m Not Leaving” will be shown from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The documentary chronicles the experiences of Carl Wilkens, the only American who refused to leave Rwanda when the genocide of 1994 broke out. Wilkens stayed to protect Tutsis whose lives were threatened – and through archival footage, as well as home video and eyewitness accounts, his remarkable story is told onscreen. The screening will be followed by a discussion. Location: Building 1, room 219B.
• Sept. 17, East Campus: Valencia Professor Michael Savage will speak from 10 to 11:15 a.m. about the Rwandan genocide and the events that led up to it. Location: Building 3, room 113.
• Sept. 17, East Campus: Wilkens’ documentary, “I’m Not Leaving,” will be shown from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., followed by a Q&A with Wilkens. At 1 p.m., Wilkens will give a keynote speech. Location: Building 3, room 113.
• Sept 17, Osceola Campus: Free screening of the documentary, “Coexist,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. “Coexist” tells the emotional stories of people who survived the Rwandan genocide and their struggle toward forgiveness and reconciliation. The screening will be followed by a Q&A. Location: Osceola Campus, Bldg. 1, room 101.
• Sept.18, West Campus: Free screening of “Broken City Poets,” from 10 to 11:15 a.m. The documentary chronicles the lives of four high-school students who are challenged to use poetry to make sense of their bankrupt, gang-ridden California city. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jose Vadi. Location: Health Sciences Building, room 105.
• Sept.18, West Campus: Free screening of documentary “Paper City,” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. “Paper City” began as a series of interviews with students from crime-ridden Holyoke, Mass., where the teens must navigate through a drug economy, struggling school systems, gang warfare and a school-to-prison pipeline. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Akil Gibbons and Andres Feliciano. Location: Health Sciences Building, room 105.
• Sept. 18, West Campus: Free screening of “I’m Not Leaving,” from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The documentary chronicles the experiences of Carl Wilkens, the only American who refused to leave Rwanda when the genocide of 1994 broke out. Wilkens stayed to protect Tutsis whose lives were threatened – and through archival footage, along with home video and eyewitness accounts, his remarkable story is told onscreen. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Wilkens. Location: Health Sciences Building, room 105.
• Sept. 19, Winter Park Campus: Free screening of “Beyond the Divide,” from 7 to 9 p.m. “Beyond the Divide” explores how a Vietnam veteran and a peace advocate in Missoula, Mont., tried to heal the old wounds that divided soldiers and peace activists in a war that deeply divided the nation. Location: Rooms 225-226. (Note: Seating is limited. Please arrive early.)
The speakers are presented by Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Initiative. Click here for a full schedule of Peace Week events.
Valencia’s East Campus is located at 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando. Valencia’s Osceola Campus is located at 1800 Denn John Lane, Kissimmee. Valencia’s West Campus is located at 1800 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando. Valencia’s Winter Park Campus is located at 850 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park.