Peace Discussed by Middle East Roundtable and Irish Ambassador
Peace was the topic of the day at Sacred Heart University on November 15, 2006, when Ireland’s Consul General addressed students and separately, a roundtable to discuss the Middle East took place.
While no two conflicts are alike, Ireland's Consul General, Ambassador Timothy O'Connor, offered encouraging words about the prospect for Middle East peace during his visit to SHU. His lecture on Ireland's relationship with the United States and the European Union was sponsored by the University's Department of Government and Politics and took place in the Schine Auditorium.
Given the generations of bloodshed on Irish soil, few would have predicted lasting peace could reign there, and yet it has since the Good Friday Peace Accord of 1998. If Ireland can find peace, so, too, can the Middle East, O'Connor said. But it takes work.
"There has to be sufficient will to create a path toward peace. Enough people have to believe that a peaceful way forward makes better sense than the status quo. Whatever you come up with has to have the support and endorsement of the people, not just the politicians who are negotiating it," O'Connor said.
The roundtable, held in the Pitt Center Boardroom, attracted about 30 people from the campus community and members of the public. They heard from four panelists— Rabbi Joseph H. Ehrenkranz, executive director of the Center for Christian Jewish Understanding; Dr. John F. Kikoski, a professor of Government and Politics; Matthew Semel, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice; and Jason Guberman-Pfeffer, a student in the Government and Politics program.
"Before the war in Lebanon, before the [United State’s Nov. 7] election, there was already a backing away from the democracy rhetoric, which is dangerous because, while the Bush administration has failed to achieve its goals in Iraq and elsewhere, democracy has to be our ultimate goal. What we should never do is sacrifice our idealism to the current realities on the ground," Guberman-Pfeffer said.
Professor Semel asserted there is a lot of blame to go around on all sides in the Middle East, including the Palestinians and the Israelis. "But the important thing to me is, how do we stop the bloodshed? I think stopping the bloodshed means that we recognize the inherent humanity in all sides and we look for the good people to form a dialogue with and we impress upon our political leaders how important it is to solve this crisis, and the effect that this crisis has on the United States' standing in the world and on terrorism," Semel said.
Professor Kikoski said "The stakes are high and the clock is ticking." But he remains an optimist. "Today, President Bush is landing in Hanoi, Vietnam to talk about commerce and I couldn't have believed that this could be possible even 10, let alone 20 or 30 years ago. Strange and wonderful things happen. The Germans and the Japanese are our allies. The French and the Germans are at peace. Let's not give up before we have to. Let's hope that the people who believe in peace and moderation and dialogue will surmount those who believe in the ugliness of violence," Kikoski said.
Cynthia Marks, a Business major from Pompton Plains, New Jersey, said she appreciated hearing several different perspectives about the situation in the Middle East. "It's not only about religion but about what's going on in the world and how it affects us and our future," Marks said.
Student Dustin Mannino, a Business Finance and Sports Management major from Suffolk County, New York, said the roundtable broadened his view of the Middle East. "When you first think about it, you only think about suicide bombers and terrorism," he said. And while violence has come to define the Middle East, there is more to it, Mannino said.
Roundtable organizer, Dr. June-Ann Greeley, said this was the first of many discussions about international issues, including the Middle East. “I think that it’s really important that we have discussions about what’s going on in the world and there’s no part of the world that’s more of an issue, particularly for young people. The Middle East is going to be part of their lives for generations,” said Dr. Greeley, a professor of Religious Studies.