LOWELL, Mass. – Four internationally acclaimed human-rights activists honored by UMass Lowell – including the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize – will come together at the university on Wednesday, April 9 for a once-in-a-lifetime event to share their work with the public, students, faculty and staff.
“Reflections on Peace-Building” will include anti-apartheid champion Albie Sachs, UMass Lowell’s 2014 Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies, and past recipients of the honor in a free public program on how to transcend conflicts and unite people. Sachs is an influential member of the African National Congress, judge, author and teacher whose lifetime pursuit has been abolishing South Africa’s segregationist policies and in their place creating a free and just society. In 1994, then-President Nelson Mandela named him as a judge to the country’s first Constitutional Court, capping his work in the ANC to help establish South Africa as a democracy and draft its constitution. During nearly 15 years on the bench, he advanced South Africa’s recognition of human rights, legalizing same-sex marriage, striking down the death penalty and overturning laws that criminalized homosexuality, among other precedents.
Sharing in the conversation will be the following Greeley scholars:
Leymah Gbowee (2011 honoree), who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize that same year. Gbowee helped end the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. As a social worker, she organized Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, uniting Christian and Muslim women in a national sit-in to protest the war and pray and sing for peace, which eventually forced national leaders to create a peace process. Today, she is the executive director of the Women’s Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Ghana. In 2009, she and the women of Liberia received the Profiles in Courage Award by the Kennedy Library Foundation. The award-winning 2008 documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” tells her story.
Linda Biehl (2008 honoree), who co-founded and directs the Amy Biehl Foundation in the U.S. and the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in South Africa. Both pay tribute to her daughter, Amy, an American Fulbright scholar who was murdered at age 26 amid political violence in South Africa in the early 1990s. Today, Linda Biehl has reconciled with two of the men convicted of Amy’s death and works with them to teach forgiveness and restorative justice. During her tenure as a Greeley Scholar, she received the Medal of the Order of the Supreme Companions of O.R. Tambo, South Africa’s highest honor for a foreigner. Recognized by the Restorative Justice Center, she has also received the Aline and Norman Felton Humanitarian Award.
Padraig O’Malley (2009 honoree), who has worked to resolve conflicts in Northern Ireland, South Africa and Iraq. An award-winning author, in 2009 he organized the international “Forum for Cities in Transition,” which brought together 35 leaders from divided cities with the aim of overcoming their differences and forging shared strengths. The 2010 recipient of Association for Conflict Resolution’s Peacemaker Award, he has also received the Liberal International’s Freedom Prize, the Peace Award of the International Association of University Presidents, the Eire Society Gold Medal Award and the Freedom International Award.
The April 9 event – which will be held at 12:30 p.m. in Comley-Lane Theatre in Mahoney Hall on the university’s South Campus at 870 Broadway St., Lowell – will be the centerpiece of a series of events during Sachs’ residency at UMass Lowell as the 2014 scholar. Other events include:
Day Without Violence – Sachs will deliver an address on human rights and the preservation of dignity that is free and open to the public. Tuesday, April 8, 12:30 p.m., O’Leary Library Learning Commons, South Campus, 61 Wilder St., Lowell.
Greeley Peace Scholars Benefit Reception – Sachs, Gbowee, Biehl and O’Malley will be the honored guests at a gala to benefit the Greeley Scholar endowment. The reception will include a discussion about peace and conflict resolution moderated by Marcellette Williams, University of Massachusetts senior vice president of academic affairs, student affairs and international relations. Tickets are $75 per person and sponsorship opportunities are available. For details, visit www.uml.edu/Greeley-fundraiser. Wednesday, April 9, 5 to 7 p.m., followed by a reception until 9:30 p.m., UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell
Nelson Mandela Memorial Groundbreaking – UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, Sachs, public officials and members of the local African American Alliance are scheduled to help break ground on a city of Lowell memorial that will pay tribute to Mandela, who was Sachs’ friend and colleague. The event is free and open to the public. Thursday, April 10, 11 a.m., western lawn, Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Lowell. A reception inside the Tsongas Center will follow.
“Soft Vengeance in a Violent World” – During this free public event, Sachs will discuss his work with Mandela to achieve peace in South Africa. Sunday, April 13, 3:30 p.m., Congregation Kerem Shalom, 659 Elm St., Concord.
The UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies is selected annually in recognition of the honoree’s distinguished humanitarian achievements and ability to effectively promote peace and conflict resolution at the local, regional, national or international level. Honorees are chosen by the UMass Lowell Peace and Conflict Studies Institute, Greeley Scholar Advisory Committee and leadership of the Peace and Conflict Studies master’s degree program. The institute is co-directed by Robert Gamache, associate vice president of academic affairs, student affairs and international relations for the University of Massachusetts system and UMass Lowell professor of environmental, earth and atmospheric sciences, and Rev. Imogene Stulken, UMass Lowell’s campus minister. The Peace and Conflict Studies program is directed by Prof. Paula Rayman. The award is named in memory of Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, longtime leader of the First Parish in Concord. Others partnering to present Sachs’ visit to UMass Lowell include the university’s Office of Community Relations.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, engineering, education, fine arts, health, humanities, liberal arts, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu