posted September 12, 2005

Symposium Will Examine Genocide

The ongoing, human-made tragedy of genocide will be explored during this year's Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 27-28.

The college's annual Critical Issues Symposium provides an intensive look at a single topic. This year's symposium is examining "From Auschwitz to Darfur: Genocide in the Global Village," and will feature two keynote addresses, three blocks of concurrent focus and departmental sessions, and a concluding worship service.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The symposium will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. with the keynote address "From Torit to Darfur: The Root Cause of Sudan Genocide" in Dimnent Memorial Chapel, located on College Avenue at 12th Street. The speaker will be Dr. Haruun Ruun, who is executive director of the New Sudan Council of Churches and a Reformed Church in America (RCA) world mission program associate.

Ruun was born in southern Sudan the son of a tribal chief, but departed from tradition and converted from Islam to Christianity, following in the footsteps of an uncle. When he lost an arm in a childhood accident, missionaries sent him to England in 1964 for a prosthesis. While he was there, his family was massacred in an uprising instigated by Sudan's Islamic fundamentalist government. Ruun returned to Sudan, first serving as an evangelist and lay preacher with the Sudan Interior Church (SIC), and later as president and then general secretary of the SIC for 18 years.

More than two million people in Sudan have been displaced by armed hostilities that have continued since 1983. The NSCC formed in 1990 to provide southern Sudan churches a way to join forces for leadership training, social/economic development and relief assistance, and council members run peace and reconciliation and human rights workshops, and establish peace committees at the community level in cooperation with local church leaders.

The presentations on Wednesday, Sept. 28, will open with the keynote address "Never Again? Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding in a Genocidal World" in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. The speaker will be Dr. James Waller, who is the Edward B. Lindaman Chair and Professor of Psychology at Whitworth College.

Waller has taught courses on intergroup relations, prejudice and genocide studies for 20 years. He is a widely recognized scholar in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies, and his publications include the book "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killings." A study tour that he developed, "Prejudice Across America," was named by President Clinton's Initiative on Race as one of America's "Promising Practices for Racial Reconciliation" and led Waller to write the books "Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism Across America" and "Prejudice Across America."

A variety of concurrent presentations will take place at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The 10:30 a.m. sessions will include "Never Again? Continued Discussion," with morning keynote speaker Dr. James Waller; "The Reformed Church in America's Response to Genocide," by Deb Braaksma, supervisor for the RCA for mission programs in Africa; "Refugees and Immigrants in West Michigan: Trends, Successes and Challenges of Integration," by Papa N'Jai, who is refugee services director with Catholic Human Development Outreach; and "Describing Genocide in Rwanda," by David Rawson, former U.S. ambassador to Rwanda.

The 1 p.m. sessions will include "Twisted Cross: Were the Nazis Christians?," by Dr. Doris Bergen, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame; "With Their Own Words," a panel discussion featuring survivors of genocide, including Socheth Na from Cambodia, Deng Dominic Majok from Sudan, and Christopher Sinankwa from Burundi and Rwanda, with Paulette Chaponniere, associate professor of nursing at Hope, serving as moderator; "Fifteen Ways to Respond," led by Hope faculty members Dr. Fred Johnson, assistant professor of history, and Amanda Barton, assistant professor of nursing; and "When and How? Teaching Critical Social Issues to Children through Literature," by children's author Ruth Vander Zee.

The 2:15 p.m. sessions are sponsored by a variety of academic departments, and include "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing," by James Waller; "History, Historians and the Problem of Evil," by Doris Bergen; "Understanding Genocide: Can it Happen Here?" and "Dealing 'Diplomatically' with Genocide," by David Rawson.

Additional details concerning the three blocks of sessions, including locations, will be available in the printed program distributed during the symposium, and may also be found through the college's Web site, www.hope.edu/cis/

There will be a concluding chapel service on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 3:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. The service will be led by Dr. Haruun Ruun.

Activities scheduled in conjunction with the symposium include the exhibition "Ryan Spencer Reed Photographs: The Sudan Project," which features images taken in Sudan. Reed will deliver a guest lecture in advance of the symposium, speaking on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 1 p.m. in the gallery of the De Pree Art Center. The exhibition will run in the gallery Monday-Friday, Sept. 26-30. The gallery will be open on Monday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.; and on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is free.

The college also scheduled the film "Hotel Rwanda" and an address by Paul Rusesabagina, whose story is told in the film, in advance of the symposium. The film ran from Sept. 10 through Sept. 13, with Rusesabagina's talk scheduled for Sept. 14.

The college's Critical Issues Symposium, first held in 1980, was established to stimulate serious thinking about current issues, and to provide a forum in which the Holland community, students and faculty may all engage in discussion with experts. The college cancels classes for a day to provide an opportunity for the event.

Past topics have included "The Middle East," "World Hunger," "The Family," "Energy," "Civil Rights," "The Quest for Justice: Christian Voices," "Lifeboat Earth: Decisions for Tomorrow," "The Columbus Legacy, 1492-1992," "Race and Social Change in America," "What Future is in our Genes: Freedom from Disease, Good Investment, Manufactured Humans?," "Sport and American Life," "Feminism and Faith: Implications for Life," "Gold Rush and Ghost Towns: Living with the Internet," "Earth Matters: Daily Decisions, Environmental Echoes," "Putting Science in Its Place: Discovery and Responsibility," and "Race and Opportunity: Echoes of Brown v. Board of Education."