Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland and recipient of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, brought words of advice to those gathered at Augsburg College on the weekend of March 5-7. He advised would-be peace makers to go beyond the elite and engage everyone involved. “We should especially engage women at all levels of the peace-making process,” he said.”Peacemakers should not be neutral, but they also should not give the impression of being unfair.” (See related article: At Augsburg, photos depict the Karen community With Our Eyes.)
Ahtisaari was given the Peace Prize for his work on conflict resolution around the world over many decades in places including Namibia, the former Yugoslavia and the Indonesian territory of Aceh.
He came to Augsburg College for the 22nd Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Friday. The annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum is rotated between five midwestern Lutheran colleges: Augsburg, Augustana College, Concordia College, Luther College and St. Olaf College. Paul Pribbenow, the President of Augsburg College said “We are called to serve our neighbors in the Lutheran church.” Pribbenow was also proud of the Norwegian heritage of the colleges.
Before President Ahtisaari spoke, Odd-Inge Kvalheim, Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the Norweigan Embassy spoke, representing Wegger Strommen, Ambassador of Norway to the United States. “For a Norweigan to come to Minneapolis is like coming home,” he said.
Ahtisaari struck a similar note. “Let me say I feel at home,” he began his speech.
The theme of the forum was “a question of will,” a phrase that President Ahtisaari used in his Nobel acceptance speech. “A Peace agreement is a beginning toward a peaceful society,” he said.
He encouraged experienced peace-makers, and places like Augsburg College to train the next generation of peace-makers. “Peace mediators around the world now are done by experienced people, and we need to train younger people so they can help in future peace-making processes.”
Each of the five Lutheran colleges has four peace scholars. The peace scholar program was created by the Peace Prize forum executive committee, which organized the forum.
President Ahtisaari ended his speech by offering words of encouragement to the man who received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama. “His election shows that your society is capable of remarkable change,” he said. “I hope he will help bring peace to the Middle East. The world is at stake in the conflict, and I hope it is solved.”
Over the Nobel Peace Prize Forum weekend, the Christensen Center Student Art Gallery on campus had an exhibit of Nobel Peace Prize winner portraits taken by Doug Knutson. Until April 1, they will present a gallery by Robert Gerhardt called “Life on the Border: The Karen people of Burma,” which looks at the effects of ongoing civil war on the Karen people living along the border between Thailand and Burma. The gallery is located at the corner of 22nd Avenue south and 7th street in Minneapolis.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament.