Pursuing Peace: Stories from Home and Abroad

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bob Ray Speaks at GrebelIn celebration of the 40th anniversary of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Waterloo, on April 20 Conrad Grebel University College hosted a sold-out gala dinner featuring the Honourable Bob Rae as keynote speaker. Focusing on the theme of “Pursuing Peace: Stories from Home and Abroad,” the evening included alumni stories, acknowledgements of those who have impacted the PACS program, as well as Bob Rae’s reflections on the pursuit of peace. Bob is a Canadian lawyer, negotiator, public speaker, and former Premier of Ontario.

In recognizing that Grebel and UWaterloo are situated on the Haldimand tract, land given in treaty in 1784 to the Six Nations, we welcomed our neighbours from the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre. They offered a thanksgiving address to begin the evening, honouring the gifts given to us by the Creator.

Alumnus and Conflict Management Certificate Program instructor Betty Pries also offered a blessing, in celebration of the PACS program, its students, and the lives of all those touched by the program.

“At its core, PACS is about people and relationships,” observed PACS Chair Nathan Funk. “PACS has inspired, shaped life trajectories, equipped people with tools and active principles, and given many the confidence to tap their own creativity and inner resources,” he added. Nathan introduced past directors and highlighted their contributions to the program. Peace and Conflict Studies alumni were also prominently featured throughout the evening. Following an alumni networking reception before the dinner, guests watched a video that shared stories of impact from a number of PACS graduates, and read alumni profiles found on the tables, in the program, and around the room.

Grebel President Marcus Shantz introduced the Honourable Bob Rae, a friend and former colleague in law. “Bob once wrote, ‘I believe in community and in finding ways to affirm community in the heart of a world in turmoil and fragments,’” prefaced Marcus. “Acting on that conviction has often drawn Bob into the heart of serious conflicts—in a dispute over natural resources here in Canada or his recent work as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. He has always done his best to promote causes of peace and social justice wherever he’s invited to serve. And despite everything he’s seen, he’s still a voice of hope.”

Asking the crowd to think about the fundamental issues that Canada is facing today, the speaker wondered what it would take to make the world a better place. “We all share our humanity—our frailty, our hopes, our aspirations, our quest for meaning, and our quest for dignity. But the way we express it is full of differences,” he said.

“The key issue is how are we going to get along with each other—not by denying the reality of the other—but by recognizing that they too have a right to live and a right to their space. Only by doing things together are we ever going to succeed and become even more human.”

“We have to come to terms that we have a colonial history,” exhorted Bob. “There was a battle for land and a refusal to recognize the dignity of ‘other’ and an unwillingness to admit that the life that was here was just as worthwhile, just as worth protecting, preserving, and honouring as any of our lives. What it will take for reconciliation to take place?”

“We don’t have the luxury of not seeking peace,” he concluded. “Peace has to be built. It’s a constant effort that can’t be put aside, because sources of conflict are deep in the human heart. And none of us is immune from the worst that the human heart can produce, and none of us is immune from the capacity to build peace.”

Delighting the crowd, Bob ended the evening by leading a singalong, including Blowin’ in the Wind and What a Wonderful World. A special request finished off the evening with “606,” Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.

The Gala raised over $26,000 for the Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) Student Support Fund. This fund supports full-time MPACS students by providing scholarships for Canadian and international students who contribute to the enrichment of the program and demonstrate strong academic ability. It’s not too late to support these students! Contact Fred W. Martin at fwmartin@uwaterloo.ca or 519-885-0220 x24229.

Many thanks to our sponsors: RBJ Schlegel, Eby Financial Group, Agree, Reesor’s Market and Bakery, Kindred Credit Union, and Tourmagination.