Today, human rights activist John Prendergast is testifying with actor George Clooney before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on conditions in Sudan and South Sudan. In two weeks, he will be at UMass Lowell for a series of events, including the annual Day Without Violence on Tuesday, April 3.
International activist Prendergast – one of those featured in the “KONY 2012” documentary by Invisible Children that has been viewed more than 76 million times on YouTube – is UMass Lowell’s 2012 Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies. The honor will bring him to campus in April to share his work with students, faculty, staff and community organizations. Last year’s honoree, Leymah Gbowee, went on to win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
Prendergast’s 25-year effort to stop human rights violations around the world and foster peace in Africa includes serving as a board member and adviser to Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle’s international advocacy and humanitarian aid group, Not on Our Watch. Prendergast previously served in the Clinton administration and the U.S. Department of State and has worked for members of Congress, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the National Intelligence Council, the International Crisis Group and the U.S. Institute of Peace, among others. He is the co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative affiliated with the Center for American Progress that seeks to end genocide and other crimes against humanity. He appears in “KONY 2012” to help raise awareness of Invisible Children’s efforts to bring Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, indicted for war crimes, to justice.
Prendergast was chosen as the Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies by the Greeley Scholar Advisory Committee and the UMass Lowell Peace and Conflict Studies Institute (PACSI). The scholar’s role includes spending time in residency at the university and presenting programs for students, faculty, staff and the public. Prendergast’s visit includes the following events that are free and open to the public:
· “Day Without Violence” on Tuesday, April 3. From 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., Prendergast will speak about his human rights work at the annual program for the campus and community that will also feature UMass Lowell Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney and Provost Ahmed Abdelal. This event will be followed by a program for UMass Lowell students with Prendergast where he will hold a dialogue with them about his work in Africa, the Enough Project and other groups, including Invisible Children and Not on Our Watch. O’Leary Library Learning Commons, Room 222, UML South, 61 Wilder St., Lowell.
· Film screening and community conversation on Monday, April 9. From 7 to 9 p.m., Prendergast will present a film about his international human rights work and discuss the issues with members of the public. UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell.
“John Prendergast is an excellent example of someone who is trying to make a difference for the good of the world,” said Paul Marion, UMass Lowell’s executive director of community and cultural affairs and a member of the Greeley Scholar program advisory committee. “We see John as someone who will inspire UMass Lowell students and other young people who meet him and hear about his impressive work around the globe and learn how they can make a difference, too.”
“I am honored by the appointment and really looking forward to working and interacting with the UMass Lowell students, whose stellar reputation precedes them,” said Prendergast.
Prendergast has launched several initiatives through The Enough Project, including the Satellite Sentinel Project with Clooney, the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools program with NBA star Tracy McGrady and the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign. He has written two books with Cheadle, including “Not on Our Watch,” a New York Times best seller and NAACP nonfiction book of the year. He has been featured on “60 Minutes” four times and helped create African characters and storylines on topics including child soldiers for episodes of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Prendergast has received numerous honors including the United Nations Correspondents Association’s Citizen of the World Award, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award and the U.S. State Department Distinguished Service Award.
“We are fortunate to have one of the world’s leading human rights activists as our Greeley Scholar this year,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “John Prendergast’s visit will build on the unforgettable experience last year of having 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee on our campus to talk to students and the community about her work to bring an end to the Liberian Civil War. Programs like these are an example of how UMass Lowell students are learning to be world-ready.”
“I have been following The Enough Project for several years and I have been impressed by their work to end genocide, to stop the conflict minerals trade and more. The work John Prendergast has done is also impressive,” said Robert Gamache, dean of the UMass School of Marine Sciences, who serves as PACSI co-director and on the Greeley advisory committee. ”Being able to bring people of the stature of John Prendergast and the other Greeley scholars to the university and community is something I believe our students and community will benefit from greatly.”
In addition to PACSI and the Greeley Scholar program, Prendergast’s visit to UMass Lowell is sponsored by the UMass Lowell Center for Middle East Peace, Development and Culture and the Center for Arts and Ideas. More information on Prendergast and his visit is available at www.uml.edu/centers/pacsi/Greeley-Scholar.html.
The Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies is conferred annually to a distinguished peace advocate, acclaimed humanitarian or faith leader who is chosen on the basis of their ability to effectively promote peace and conflict resolution at the local, regional, national or international level. The program is funded by the Greeley Endowment for Peace Studies, established with a gift from the Concord-based Dana McLean Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice and contribution from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via the UMass Foundation. The honor is named for Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, an internationally respected advocate for peace, human rights and civil rights, and a longtime Unitarian Universalist minister in Concord.