Fords Join Nobel Laureates in Colombia
The Center for Peace and Global Citizenship sent Lev Greenstein '20, Amanda Acosta Owens '18, Grace Brosnan '20, and Maelys Gluck '19 to Bogota to attend the annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates as guests of the American Friends Service Committee.
Lots of students spent the first weeks of the spring semester shopping classes and adjusting to a new schedule after a long winter break. But for four Fords, the first week of February was anything but a return to routine.
Thanks to funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Lev Greenstein '20, Amanda Acosta Owens '18, Grace Brosnan '20, and Maelys Gluck '19 spent the week in Bogota, Colombia, attending the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. A CPGC-sponsored Haverford contingent has attended almost every event since 2012—traveling to Chicago, Warsaw, and Rome—as guests of the American Friends Service Committee, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for their work on behalf of all Quakers.
The 16th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was held for the first time in Latin America to celebrate the signing of a historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC last year, which earned President Juan Manuel Santos the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. Numerous Nobel Peace laureates, including Santos, Polish labor activist and former President Lech Walesa, first Minister of Northern Ireland Lord David Trimble, and Iranian women- and children's-rights activist Shirin Ebadi were on hand—alongside other speakers, diplomats, journalists, and NGO leaders—for three days of panel discussions and talks on peace, democracy, inclusion, climate change, and sustainable development.
"I thought this opportunity was super powerful," said Amanda Acosta Owens '18, a political science major and Latin American and Iberian Studies concentrator, who applied to attend because of her interest in the Colombian peace process. "I thought the summit was going to teach us technical skills on peace-building, but I was surprised by the amount of inspirational, personal, and emotional accounts of peace-building [that we heard]. Having been someone who was not entirely sure about the power of one individual, this Summit was reassuring of the true difference anyone could make."
CPGC Executive Director Eric Hartman, who accompanied the four Fords on their journey to Bogota, was also struck by the fact that while global problems are daunting, individual actions are empowering.
"Many times and many ways, but most clearly through their own lives as examples, the laureates insisted that global problems can be addressed through individual decisions," he said. "India’s Kailash Satyarthi founded the Save the Childhood Movement in 1980, a small effort to combat child labor. That organization has now freed more than 83,000 children from bonded labor. The work of peace and justice may feel painfully slow at times. But, they said, we all have a role to play."
Hartman was also moved by the fact that the insights about social justice and human rights that the Nobel laureates shared during different talks could be applicable across borders and historical eras.
"As we heard from a panel of 14 different Nobel Peace Prize winners on the first night, I was reminded that the state is both enemy and ally in the march toward rights realization," he said. "Guatemalan Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum, for example, rose to prominence through resisting a clearly oppressive state that systematically tortured and killed indigenous peoples and political organizers. East Timor’s José Ramos-Horta, alternatively, made refugee acceptance a state priority throughout his tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister, and President."
"The big theme of the summit was the recent peace deal struck between the Colombian government and the FARC, and it served as an example and as an inspiration to many, showing us that peace is not just an ideal but that it is something attainable and in our grasp," said Maelys Gluck '19, a political science major from France who hopes, one day, to work as a diplomat.
Everyone in the Haverford delegation noticed that they were changed by being in the same room as some of the world's most successful advocates for peace and progress. Hartman, for example, was inspired by a panel that included a sitting president, several former presidents or ministers of government, and numerous citizen-activists, who all made it clear that progress is gained by subjecting existing power structures to relentless critique. And Owens was moved by the image of two Nobel laureates making a connection across a divide in their faith.
"When Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman, both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, stood up together and held hands as Shia/Sunni Muslim women, [encouraging] all Sunni and Shia Muslims to do the same," she said, "it was a very powerful moment."
Now that the summit is over and the Fords have returned to campus, they are eager to incorporate what they learned in Bogota into their coursework and lives here at Haverford.
"I think this [trip] was an important opportunity for me as an individual because it gave me a lot of insight on what my future could possibly look like," said Gluck. "Also, as a member of the Haverford community it was an important opportunity not only because we got to represent our school and its core values, but also because I got to learn more about the CPGC and what it does for students, and this really inspired me to get more involved with their activities."
"I think going to this summit has made me more hopeful about the powers that we have as individuals," said Acosta Owens. "Most laureates talked about how they started a movement that was small and insignificant and then turned into something large and even global. It made me hopeful about the impact of one in this world. I think bringing that energy and hope onto campus is not only refreshing, but exactly what is needed in these controversial times."
A view from the trip: