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Peace Prize laureate to speak on peacebuilding

2011 Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, non-violence activist. Submitted photo.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee will speak in the Centrum Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.

Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for encouraging Christian and Muslim women join together and use nonviolence to end Liberia’s civil war in 2003.

She will speak about interfaith and peacebuilding, principles she believes will be helpful for college students to hear. She will share her experiences in Liberia and use her narrative to show how she strives to bridge gaps between different religious communities.

Dr. Jacquelin Bussie, director of the Forum on Faith and Life, said the speech will address how if motivated, anyone can make meaningful change.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t miss it,” Bussie said. “She is flying all the way here from Ethiopia just to be with us. We mean something to her.”

The process of getting Gbowee to come to Concordia took about two and a half years. In order to get Gbowee’s attentions, Bussie had the idea to have multiple voices contribute to the letter they would send to her. The letter included a paragraph each from Better Together Interfaith Alliance student leaders, the Bishop of the northwest Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, Bussie, and President Craft that addressed the questions: “Why her? Why here? Why Now?”

“She embodies Concordia’s mission,” Bussie said. “She has deeply influenced the affairs of the world, she is wonderfully dedicated to the Christian life, she is clearly thoughtful and informed, and she embodies what it means to be a Lutheran in the 21st century.”

Interfaith Scholar Rosina Halverson-Studer said we often put people who achieve great things on a pedestal, thinking we cannot do the same. She said Gbowee’s relatable presence encourages people to do great things of their own.

“No matter where you are in your life, you will find something extremely valuable in her speech,” Interfaith Scholar Leslie Bellwood said. “I hope people take away the knowledge that there is no task that is too big.”

Bussie said that while everyone will take something different away from the speech, she hopes it will remind us of our own capabilities.

Bellwood feels she already knows Gbowee through her book, “Mighty Be Our Powers,” which reached many Concordia students and staff, especially those in the Forum on Faith and Life.

A group of 25 faculty members joined together and read the book and decided to make a contribution, which ended up tripling the original gift amount from the Forum on Faith and Life.

“She really lets you into very a very personal side of herself,” Bellwood said. “I can’t imagine how inspiring having her talk to us in real life will be if she can be so empowering through the medium of a book.”

“I’ve read her story, so I cant wait to see her and put all of those words to her in person, to finally see the person that I’ve admired,” Interfaith Scholar Samantha Adank said. “Through Gbowee, I’ve learned that a lot of terrible things that happen in your life can transform you.”

Adank also felt touched by Gbowee’s book.

“Leymah forces people to focus on their story. At minimum students and faculty will think, ‘wow there are so many amazing things being done’,” Adank said.

Before the lecture there is a special dinner with Gbowee and all 96 seats are filled. Bussie hopes there will be a good turnout at the lecture as well.

“She is a phenomenal speaker and this is the first time she’s been to North Dakota,” Adank said. “I think there will be a good turnout from the community but I hope students will come too. How many times do you get the chance to be in the room with a Nobel Peace Prize winner?”

For 25 years, Concordia College, Luther College, St. Olaf College, Augustana College, and Augsburg College hosted the Nobel Peace Prize forum in rotation until Augsburg became the permanent location in 2012. Concordia last hosted in 2008. Now Concordia writes to laureates, encouraging them to come speak. The last Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to come to Concordia was 1995 laureate, Francesco Calogero, Secretary General of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and world affairs in November 2013.

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